Another Challenge Facing Schools

The trouble with schools is that they keep being asked to do things to young people which might not always be in their best interests.  For example, we closed schools when all the data was telling us that they were safe from the virus and not the ‘vectors’ for transmission that the media was making them out to be. And now, schools will be asked to host the vaccine roll out to 12 – 15 year olds. 

I’m sorry I had not intended to cover Covid issues again, but my delay in writing for so long is due to being constantly distracted by it.   So let me get this out of my system and please don’t damn me for raising questions. 

First, the obligatory – ‘I’m not a Covid denying, anti-vax, conspiracy theorist statement’:  

  • Covid was a novel virus that is nasty, especially to the elderly and some vulnerable groups; it exists.  I’m not claiming it to be the monster the media have made it out to be, but I accept it exists
  • My children are all vaccinated with all the usual vaccines as have I during my life.  I am not anti-vaccinations
  • Throughout this crisis, I have avoided anything that is not backed up by evidence from reliable sources or for articles, they are most often peer reviewed.

As educators in schools, we have been compliant during this crisis and followed the instructions and policies given to us by the various powers that be.  As a result, we are now seeing the consequences of these policies.  The wellbeing, welfare and educational consequences have been devastating for young people. Here are a few links:

In the past I described the measures put in place by theUK Governments as being akin to the systematic abuse of young people and I make no apologies for that statement.  If you look at earlier blogs on the subject I’ve outlined the evidence and data that we had (even during the very first lockdown and school closures) from around the world which highlighted just how low risk young people were and the minimal risk they posed to others.  These measures did not need to be imposed on them, but they were. 

And now here we are with a mass of evidence, which states that the vaccination of young people is unnecessary and unethical, we are about to vaccinate 12 – 15 year olds. 

At the top of the list for those not advocating the vaccination of 12 – 15 year olds is the Government Committee – the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) who stated “that the health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms”.  Read the publication HERE.  They also provide a list in this publication of those who may be vulnerable.

Secondly, If you have time, watch this British Medical Journal (BMJ) webinar HERE. If you don’t have the time, and in a school that is about to administer the roll out, them please make the time, it’s important to be fully informed.  It gives a really good balanced narrative looking at the pros and the cons.  The three arguments against vaccinating that stood out for me were:

  • That naturally acquired immunity confers greater protection than the vaccine.
  • We don’t know the number of young people who were asymptomatic and so many may not need the vaccine
  • Why vaccinate healthy children when there are others in more need around the world that would benefit from supplies

Look also at this article. It is a good summary of the issues surrounding vaccinations and children.   

I am aware of the large amount of resource put into developing these vaccines, hence the reason they came onto the market quickly (Stage 3 trials are not yet completed) to reduce serious illness, reduce hospitalisations and death, especially amongst the elderly and clinically vulnerable.  However, what no one knows is the long-term effects of these MNRA and viral vector vaccines.  (If you want to read up on what the vaccines are, this is a very good article which describes the differences clearly).  If we don’t know the long-term effects, should we be administering them to young people who have long lives ahead of them?  

I guess it comes down to the long-term net gain in terms of health.   For me, I think the risk of administering the vaccines, far outweighs the benefits the vaccine might bring to the child’s health.  If you are worrying about Long Covid then read this BMJ article and also this Lancet article

A matter of consent

There was an interesting letter published recently ( I don’t know if it was true or not) from a parent who said she had received a call from school because her 13 year old son had walked out of school without consent from a parent.  The answer was along the lines of “my son can give consent to having a vaccine that may carry with it risks, why can’t he then give his consent to leaving school early, knowing all the risks that carries?”

The issue of consent is a big one.   In this country we have the Gillick Competence checklist which medical experts are expected to follow when considering a child’s ability or capacity to give consent to having medical advice or treatment.  When doing this, they should consider the following:

  • the child’s age, maturity and mental capacity
  • their understanding of the issue and what it involves – including advantages, disadvantages and potential long-term impact
  • their understanding of the risks, implications and consequences that may arise from their decision
  • how well they understand any advice or information they have been given
  • their understanding of any alternative options, if available
  • their ability to explain a rationale around their reasoning and decision making.

In this Government Article It explains the whole vaccination rollout process in schools.  One question raised in the FAQs section is what happens If parents do not wish to give consent but the child does.  It refers parents to the Gillick Competences and claims that if children do meet these, they can give consent. 

Now look again at the competences above.  Do young people fully understand the issues and long-terms impacts?  We all know the minefield of information and misinformation (from both sides of the argument) that is out there.  How can we make sense of it all when there are doctors and scientists who are arguing from both sides?    How can they make informed decisions when there is such obvious coercion?  (Coercion is central to the principals underlying the Gillick Competencies).  Just look at the trending news stories over the past month in relation to young people and Covid.  I do not see how any young person can reasonably give consent.  I would be struggling to give consent for myself if I was to follow this checklist!

Finally, consider the 1989 and amended 2004 Children’s act (here’s a good summary) are we putting the best interests of the child first?  

I guess it’s easy for me to write this now that I have retired from Headship.  If I was still in the role what would I have done?  I didn’t retire because of the pressures caused by Covid.  This date was always planned.  But would I have left had I not planned to retire?  I think I would have.  I would have kicked up an unholy row and tried everything I could to stop this rollout taking place to the children in my care.  I would have no doubt lost any battle and then I would have either been asked to leave or would have left before this happened.  I’m lucky I don’t have to follow this path now, but I do feel for the Heads and Principals who will have to do this over the coming weeks. 

It’s not easy to make decisions in the divided world we are living at the moment, but we can if we are informed and keep raising questions and demanding answers.  Here are a few questions to consider:

  • If children are low risk to others (an earlier BMJ webinar pointed out that research shows that when they contract the virus it is not in the vast majority of cases serious and when they transmit it to others it is a small payload; the recipients do not usually become seriously ill) and at low risk of serious illness, then why did we ever close schools in the first place?
  • To what extent have our policies around isolating those infected been detrimental to schooling and educational progress?  Sending home whole year groups for example.  Was this necessary (Especially considering the bullet above?)
  • The JCVI passed the responsibility for the final decision on whether or not to vaccinate the 12 – 15 year olds  over to the Government.  They did this because it was not in their remit to consider the wider societal issues which may arise if these children were not vaccinated, e.g. school closures and disruptions in school.  If we consider the two bullets above, is there not enough evidence now to say with certainty that schools should not close or isolate pupils who have come into contact with a case?
  • Why do we continue to test children when we now know that those who asymptomatic rarely transmit the virus.  It is an area no one seems to be definite on. 
  • If the purpose of the vaccine is to keep the rate of hospitalisations low (we know now it is not to stop transmission because people can still become infected following the vaccine), why do we need to vaccinate children who are very rarely hospitalised?
  • Are we paying due attention to the concerns and wishes of parents?

All I can say is talk to each other, talk to your Local Authorities and/or Trusts and at least discuss and explore the issue.  Don’t keep your thoughts to yourself – share!

And if you want to know more . . .

If you’ve managed to read this far, here are three people you should look up on Twitter.  They are all medical practitioners highly regard in their fields.  They base all of their comments on evidence and give a balanced view.

  • Carl Heneghan – A general practitioner physician, a clinical epidemiologist director of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Allyson Pollock – A public Health doctor and was the Director of the Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University.
  • Alasdair Munro – A Pediatric Registrar and Clinical Research Fellow  at the Southampton Clinical Research Facility

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