Medical staffers can legally vaccinate school kids aged 12-15 without the consent of their parents, as long as the child agrees to the procedure, the British government has told schools in new coronavirus guidelines.
Unveiled on Wednesday, the new guidance from the UK’s Health Security Agency lays out rules and recommendations for a school-based vaccine drive for children aged 12 to 15-years-old, which will see ‘School Age Immunisation Service’ (SAIS) teams go school-to-school to provide on-site vaccinations. It comes soon after the jabs were approved for the 12-15 age group earlier this week by UK health officials.
Children aged 12-15 in England will be offered the #COVID19 vaccination, starting next week.— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) September 15, 2021
It follows advice from the UK's Chief Medical Officers. Parent or carer consent will be sought for the vaccination.
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While the school guidance document states that parents will be asked to sign a leaflet giving their consent before any vaccinations go ahead, it notes that “children may express a wish to have the vaccine and may have the capacity to provide informed consent themselves” – even against the wishes of their guardians.
“Young people who understand fully what is involved in a proposed procedure, such as vaccination, can legally give consent,” the guidelines explain, referring to a standard known as ‘Gillick competence’.
If no consent from a parent has been received, but the child wants to be vaccinated and is judged to be Gillick competent by the healthcare professional, the child can still be vaccinated.
The document goes on to say that, in the event a parent outwardly “objects to their child being vaccinated,” the SAIS teams will do their best to “reach agreement between the parent and child.” Legally, however, the parent cannot “overrule the decision of a Gillick competent child.”
The new guidelines effectively confirmed reports late last month that kids as young as 12 “would not need parental consent” to be vaccinated, though the guidance does stress that every effort would be made to inform parents and request their approval.
The SAIS teams will work with individual schools and create plans for how to proceed with mass vaccinations for those 12 and older, and are supposed to be made up of qualified healthcare workers, the government said.
While vaccinations for preteens are set to begin next week, UK regulators have yet to approve immunizations for younger children and are still evaluating relevant data. To date, between all age groups, more than 44 million in the UK have been fully immunized against the virus, or just over 65% of the country’s population.
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