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Arguing children need vaccines for their mental health & social development is scientifically illiterate & morally reprehensible

Arguing children need vaccines for their mental health & social development is scientifically illiterate & morally reprehensible
The UK government looks set to approve Covid jabs for 12-15-year-olds, against scientific advice. This is bad enough, but suggesting it will benefit their mental health is an insult, given how this was disregarded in lockdown.

Boris Johnson is currently finalising the UK’s winter Covid plan. Reports suggest most of the emergency coronavirus restrictions we have been living under for the past 18 months will be dropped. Proposals to introduce vaccine passports in England have been ditched too. This is great news. The line now coming from government is that autumn and winter will bring new challenges but “vaccines remain the first line of defence.”

Vaccines do indeed make this winter very different to the last one. Although around 30,000 people a day have been testing positive for Covid-19 for many weeks now, the proportion needing to be hospitalised is substantially lower than in either of the previous two waves. So it is easy to see why the government is throwing its weight behind the vaccine rollout. 

Also on rt.com We need open and honest discussion about the pros and cons of vaccine mandates, not the hysterical shouting match we have now

But just because something is good, does not mean more of it is automatically better. This week we also expect to see an announcement that vaccines will be made available to children aged 12-15. The UK’s chief medical officers are likely to overrule the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) which recently recommended against vaccinating healthy children. 

From the moment the coronavirus first appeared, ‘follow the science!’ was the mantra we were all expected to live by. Government ministers genuflected to science. When campaigners, journalists and trade unionists wanted ever-more restrictive measures introduced, they argued that science was being ignored. But news that the JCVI did not recommend vaccinating healthy 12-15-year- olds changed all this overnight. The very same people who, for so long, urged us to ‘follow the science’ began advocating precisely the opposite approach.

The JCVI concluded that because the risk Covid poses to children is so tiny, the dangers of the vaccine – which are also very small – take on greater significance. In other words, there is simply no medical case for routinely vaccinating children against a virus that most will just shrug off. Vaccines might still be our first line of defence, but they should be targeted at those most at risk of becoming seriously ill.

Government ministers and campaigners alike have pushed for the UK’s chief medical officers to overturn this rational, scientific approach and greenlight jabs for teenagers. Of course, few were so crude as to say that the JCVI scientists should be ignored. Instead, they argued, the JCVI’s remit was too narrow: it only took account of the medical evidence at the level of the individual. What’s needed, they said, is for the science to be ‘reviewed’ or ‘contextualised’ until the right decision – that is, the one Zero Covid advocates agree with – is reached. They have, it seems, got their wish and ministers are promising that younger teenagers will start being jabbed before the end of this month. 

It’s not that Covid suddenly poses any more of a risk to children. And it’s definitely not the case that the vaccine has been found to be entirely risk-free. The exact opposite in fact. A US study released just two days ago shows that teenage boys are four to six times more likely to get vaccine-related myocarditis than end up in hospital with Covid. This shocking statistic should be quite enough to put paid to all further discussion about vaccinating healthy children. 

It clearly hasn’t. England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty is expected to approve vaccinating children after, according to the Times, expert advisers told him, “it would benefit their mental health, education and social development.” This statement truly beggars belief. 

Whitty is advocating vaccinating children when the risks are greater than the illness and when the vaccine does not stop people from either catching Covid or transmitting the virus. We have to twist logic beyond all recognition to begin to make sense of claims that a vaccine – a pharmaceutical intervention – can help a child’s mental health, education and social development.

I’m not a scientist but I am a parent. And I have some mother’s wisdom for Chris Whitty. If you want to help children’s mental health, don’t scare them with ridiculous threats about killing granny with a hug. If you want to help children’s education, do not close schools. Do not send entire cohorts of children home because someone in their year group, someone they have had no contact with, has tested positive. And if you want to help their social development, let children lead normal lives. Let them go to school without being told to stick a Covid test swab up their nose before they can enter a classroom. Because – let’s be absolutely clear – it is not a virus that closes schools and playgrounds, youth groups and leisure centres, it is government ministers advised by you, Mr. Whitty.

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Arguing that children need to be vaccinated for their mental health, social development and education is scientifically illiterate and morally reprehensible. It suggests a political decision to vaccinate was made first, and justifications sought afterwards. The upshot is that children will be vaccinated for no other reason than to appease fretful adults and allow Boris Johnson to avoid an argument with the Zero-Covid fanatics. As a mother, this is not good enough.

Of course, science is not an oracle that can tell us how to live. Decisions about lockdown, school closures and mask wearing have never been dictated by controlled scientific experiments. They have always been political. But it has suited the needs of campaigners and ministers to deny this and argue that science is objective and uncontestable. Until now. More than ever, we need to keep politics out of children’s health.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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