On 16 February, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced new vaccination advice for children.
They have advised that children aged five to 11 can be given a non-urgent offer of two 10 mcg doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
The JCVI’s intention with this offer is to “increase the immunity of vaccinated individuals against severe Covid-19 in advance of a potential future wave of Covid-19.”
We are supportive of this offer to children aged five to 11 to protect their right to life and other human rights impacted by Covid-19, including education, physical and mental health, rest, play, leisure and right to family life.
Children and young people have the right to access appropriate information on decisions that affect them. They should have any questions on vaccination answered in a way they can understand. It is essential that decisions about the vaccine rollout are communicated directly to children and their parents and carers so they can understand why they are being offered the vaccine, or boosters, and make an informed choice. It is important that there is no stigma attached to the choices that children make about vaccination.
Parents and carers play an important role in supporting the decision-making around whether a child chooses to get vaccinated, even more so when the child is younger. They need to be given the necessary information to support that choice.
We agree strongly with the JCVI that the adults who will be rolling out this programme and delivering the vaccinations need to be trained and feel confident in giving relevant information to children and their parents/carers in a way that they will understand.
Children and young people have the right to life and to the best possible standard of health.
The right to health does not just involve protection from the virus, but also recognition of the impact on children and young people’s mental health due to isolation, uncertainty, disruption to education, and other factors. The decision to offer vaccinations also engages and supports a wide range of other children’s rights, including education, rest, leisure and play, and respect for family life.
The office is in constant dialogue with Children’s Commissioners and ombudspersons across Europe and we are also tracking other countries’ approaches to rolling out the vaccination for primary school children. Many are moving quickly, indeed the US approved vaccinating this age group with Pfizer on 2 November 2021, with Canada and Australia quickly following suit along with other European countries.
As part of the World Health Organization’s Technical Advisory Group on Schooling During Covid-19, we have consistently called for further evidence to ascertain the optimum set of mitigation strategies, including vaccination of children, that would achieve the full range of health, social, and educational aspirations for the entire population, particularly children.