NNPCF work Vaccination

NNPCF representations on the Covid 19 vaccination of children

The last few weeks have seen a lot of press and media comment on the subject of vaccination of children versus covid 19.

Advice to government on whether children should be vaccinated is being prepared by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI). JCVI is an independent group that is not a part of the government and the NHS. Based on their advice, a government policy will be developed.

It is clear that Covid has little direct impact on children (see recent BBC article on UCL research Covid: Children’s extremely low risk confirmed by study – BBC News). This may suggest that they should not be vaccinated. In addition, there are ethical arguments about medicating someone that is for the benefit of someone else (i.e. the vaccination of children is primarily to protect more vulnerable older people from the spread of the virus) especially when they lack capacity to make that decision themselves (which is the case for children).

However, children are significantly indirectly impacted by the response to covid (e.g. needing to isolate). It is also clear that whilst the risk remains very small, some children are at increased risk from Covid such as those with severe neuro-disability and severe respiratory conditions. Many of these children will fall into the category of having SEND.

The NNPCF has been made the following representations on the subject of vaccinations:

1. If evidence suggests that vaccination of children is effective and safe, it should be made available to children who are at higher risk of severe illness

2. Any decision to give the vaccine must be coproduced with parent carers and children and young people. There should be no judgement or pressure to be vaccinated or not.

3. Reasonable adjustments should be made to enable children with SEND to access the vaccine where required.

For more on the impact of on children see the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child health website Message for paediatricians on children and young people and the COVID-19 vaccination programme | RCPCH

Also see the article in the Guardian by Professor Russell Viner who spoke at the joint NNPCF / Contact conference in December. Shall we vaccinate our children? We could start by asking them first | Russell Viner | The Guardian

Covid 19 Vaccinations and SEND

Whilst great progress is being made to vaccinate people, NHS staff and some care workers, parent carer forums are raising issues about the position of SEND families and services with regard to vaccinations.

Forums have described a “post code lottery” across three clear areas related to SEND which is causing confusion and anxiety. These are

1. Vaccinations for vulnerable children – Covid vaccinations are currently not authorised for use on children. However, we are hearing that clinically vulnerable children have been vaccinated in some localities. The guidance from the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health outlines circumstances in which vaccinating children might be considered whilst making clear that these vaccinations would be “unlicensed use.” Message for paediatricians on children and young people and the COVID-19 vaccination programme | RCPCH

2. Vaccinations for unpaid carers – Unpaid carers are eligible for vaccination as priority 6 cases. Parent carers should contact their GP to ensure they are identified as such on GP records. Our partners at Contact have done a lot of work on this and you can find their guidance here: Covid-19 vaccination: your questions answered | Contact

3. Special school staff – in some areas special school staff have been vaccinated. In others, they have not. We have asked local authorities, healthcare systems and school to ensure that staff are vaccinated as soon as possible to enable special schools to reopen fully

The NNPCF have raised these areas to NHSE and to the Department for Education in a call for more clarity and a consistent approach across the country. However, much of this is down to local implementation and policy in particular local authorities and even GP’s surgeries.

The NNPCF will continue to highlight these concerns at a national policy level and local parent carer forums should continue to raise them at a local implementation level.