Covid teams can vaccinate pupils at school against parents’ wishes
There are now fears about the prospect of protests at schools
Healthcare staff will have the power to decide whether a child gets a Covid vaccine against the wishes of their parents, according to new guidelines published by the government on Wednesday (September 15).
Earlier this week, it was announced that children aged 12 to 15 will be offered a Covid-19 jab, after the chief medical officers recommended the move to minimise the disruption on children's education over the winter.
The vaccinations will be administered by School Age Immunisation Service (SAIS) teams that already carry out flu and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations in England. Schools will simply provide a site and distribute information and consent forms to pupils and parents.
Children will not be forced to have the single dose of the Pfizer jab that is being offered. But in cases where parents do not want their child to have the jab but the child wants to go ahead with it, vaccination teams may be able to go against the wishes of the parents.
Teams will determine if the child is able to make an informed decision, establishing whether the child has something called 'Gillik competence,' and will "make every effort to contact a parent to check before they proceed."
The guidelines state: "If a parent objects to their child being vaccinated but the child wants to be vaccinated and is judged to be Gillick competent, the healthcare professional will try to reach agreement between the parent and child.
"However, the parent cannot overrule the decision of a Gillick competent child."
The NHS says that Gillik competence is when a child under 16 "can consent to their own treatment if they’re believed to have enough intelligence, competence and understanding to fully appreciate what’s involved in their treatment."
If parents oppose their child's vaccination and the child is deemed not to be Gillick competent or does not want to be vaccinated then a vaccination will not be given.
The guidelines have raised concerns over the possibility of protests from parents outside schools. There is a fear that parents will take their anger out on schools, despite schools playing no part in the decision to vaccinate pupils.
The government guidelines even provide advice to schools regarding protests, admitting that they "know some schools are receiving campaign letters and emails with misinformation about the vaccine programme and would like advice on how to handle protests in the event they were to take place at school."
The guidelines add: "In the event of a protest or disruptive activity outside a school, or if schools know a protest is planned, they should alert the SAIS provider, local authority and police contacts to discuss the best way to manage the situation."
One headteacher told the Guardian that the government guidelines leave school staff in a "potentially very difficult decision."
Jules White, the headteacher of Tanbridge House secondary school in Sussex, added: "In a situation where an issue like this arises I would prefer the matter to be dealt with away from the school site – at, for example, a GP’s surgery or local medical centre."
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