Statement on COVID-19 vaccination of children
Since the launch of UsforThem in May 2020, our driving principle has been that children’s needs should be a primary consideration in all decisions affecting them. Over the past 18 months, we have regularly been shocked and saddened as rulings about interventions which detrimentally affect children, such as school closures and mass isolation, have been made without transparency as to the decision-making process and in the absence of a clear evidence base. All too often, it has seemed that children’s interests have been subjugated in favour of adult interests and politicking.
We would like to clarify our position regarding the vaccination of children.
The UK’s vaccine rollout has been successful at protecting the adult population from severe disease, hospitalisation, and death. This is to be welcomed.
Given the low risk to children of covid itself, we have held that the mass rollout of vaccine to otherwise healthy children should have been recommended only in the context of a clear, direct benefit to them and their health.
We appreciated the JCVI’s thoughtful consideration of the issues and their acknowledgement of uncertainties and the marginal benefit. This is good public health communication.
Given the CMOs’ decision nonetheless to recommend the universal vaccination of healthy children based on wider societal issues, we believe it is essential for parents, and indeed children, to see more detail on the evidence base and modelling behind their decision. Trust and transparency are cornerstones of public health.
We also seek to safeguard informed consent for all children and parents, and respect for individual vaccination decisions. This relies on accurate, unbiased information and a climate of respect. As the CMOs were at pains to state: there should be no stigmatisation of any child or family for either accepting or not accepting the vaccine offer. This is especially essential given the finely balanced risk/ benefit.
We welcome the CMOs’ good intentions in this regard, but we remain concerned about the quality of information being made available to parents and children, and we are unconvinced that the decision to vaccinate or not to vaccinate can remain free of stigmatisation in a school setting, where the logistics of rollout risk making a child’s vaccination status known to the community. For each family, however, the decision is a matter of individual choice.
UsforThem is determined to ensure that all children and young people are treated equally irrespective of vaccine status. Our primary means for achieving this outcome is robust, evidence-based, constructive and respectful engagement, and we do not endorse or condone any form of aggressive, intimidating or disruptive behaviour directed at schools, educators, parents or others.
Attributing ill intent to those who might respectfully challenge our views or hold a different position to ourselves is unhelpful and can only lead to a more fractured society. This is not a legacy any of us want to leave for the younger generation.
Our primary campaigning focus remains for children to have the normal, happy school life and childhood to which they are entitled and to ensure their educational recovery, health and well-being is prioritised in all decisions impacting them.