Children will require the written consent of their parents before they receive a Covid vaccine as the Government’s independent advisers discuss plans to jab those as young as 12.
Schools will need parents to provide written consent forms giving permission for their children to be jabbed as they prepare to roll out childhood immunisation programmes over the coming months.
The plans, which are being finalised by ministers, would see schools across the UK issuing consent forms to all parents and not vaccinating their children until they have been returned.
It comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid last week told the NHS to start preparing to jab children as young as 12 as Sage committee scientists warned a ‘large’ Covid wave was likely to hit schools next month.
School will require parental consent before they vaccinate children under new plans being finalised by ministers
As the Government prepares to roll out vaccines for children, Professor Helen Bedford of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said school nurses would not go ahead with a vaccine if they knew this was against a parent’s wishes.
She told The Times: ‘In practice, most [vaccinations] are given by school nurses and it’s very unlikely, if you know for certain the parent doesn’t want it, that you would go ahead. ‘
This week Sajid Javid said he was putting plans in place so the country was ‘ready to hit the ground running’ if the JCVI – the Government’s independent advisers – gave the go-ahead to jab younger children.
The NHS has been told to start recruiting and training staff to go into schools to give pupils Covid jabs early next term, if they’re approved.
Headteachers will be told to prepare space where the vaccines can be given or be ready to allow pupils time out of lessons to get the jab elsewhere.
It is the clearest signal yet that ministers expect the jab for younger children to be approved imminently.
It came as experts warned the Government to plan for a surge in infections at the end of September, following the return of children from the summer holidays. Their fears were detailed in a document from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (SPI-M-O).
Earlier this month, campaign groups hit back at the plans to push through the inoculation drive to school pupils, claiming that children could be ‘peer-pressured’ into making ‘inappropriate’ decisions.
NHS England bosses have already told trusts to be ready to expand the roll out scientists warned the virus will ‘rip through schools’ unless pupils are immunised before the new term.
Sajid Javid said he was putting plans in place so the country was ‘ready to hit the ground running’ if the JCVI gave the go-ahead to jab younger children
People queue to receive a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination centre set up in Newcastle
Scientists have been at war for months over whether to push ahead with expanding the rollout, with some experts claiming it may be better for children to catch Covid and recover to develop natural immunity than to be reliant on protection from vaccines, which studies suggest wanes in months.
Parental rights organisation UsForThem, which was founded in May 2020 following the decision to close schools during lockdown, said it had been flooded with calls from parents worried they would have no say in vaccination.
Molly Kingsley, UsForThem’s co-founder, told the Telegraph: ‘Yes you have to ask for parental consent, but this begs the question of what is going to happen if consent is withheld?
‘This is profoundly murky and it shatters any remaining trust parents have in the Government.
‘It strikes me that given the uncertainty about whether a 12-year-old is competent to consent, there are serious liability issues for schools that press ahead with this on school premises.’
School leaders also voiced their concerns about how the rollout would go ahead without parental consent.
Steve Chalke, founder of a trust that runs 50 schools around the country, said children being allowed to override their parents’ wishes would be ‘highly contentious’.
And general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers Paul Whiteman said the responsibility to choose whether children should be vaccinated should not be in schools’ hands.
It comes as figures showed Britain’s daily Covid cases have flattened off over the past week, though hospitalisations and deaths are both still rising.
Department of Health chiefs posted another 38,154 positive tests yesterday, which was barely a change on the 38,281 which were recorded last Thursday. Infections were down slightly in England for the ninth day in a row.
Meanwhile, both hospitalisation and fatality figures — which lag several weeks behind cases because of how long infected people can take to fall seriously ill — are continuing on an upwards trend.
Some 178 lab-confirmed victims were added to the Government’s official toll, up by a quarter on last week’s figure of 140.
And 848 Covid patients were hospitalised on August 29, the most recent day UK-wide figures are available for. This was up by 4 per cent on the previous Sunday.
Given that infections have began to plateau across Britain as a whole over the past week, both hospitalisations and deaths are expected to follow suit soon.
But some scientists fear the return of millions of schoolchildren in England, Wales and Northern Ireland over this week and next will inevitably trigger an explosion in cases.
And ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson yesterday warned there would be a ‘significant surge’ in cases and ‘to some extent’ in hospitalisations because of schoolchildren going back.