Coronavirus latest news: Teachers threatened with legal action if they advise pupils on vaccine

·12 min read
Pupils at a Covid test station as they entered their new secondary school for the first time at Wales High school, Sheffield, England - Rui Vieira/AP
Pupils at a Covid test station as they entered their new secondary school for the first time at Wales High school, Sheffield, England - Rui Vieira/AP

Teachers have been threatened with legal action if they advise pupils on the Covid vaccine, a union leader has said.

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary for the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), said that it was important that it was trained medical professionals and not teachers or school leaders who advised parents and pupils.

Given the jabs are likely to be administered in schools as they are public buildings, Mr Whiteman hoped that if the health service took the lead on the rollout for children, they would avoid "unpleasantness".

He told the Today programme: "What's really important here is it's not teachers or school leaders that are able to give advice to young people or parents about whether they should take up the voluntary vaccine or not, and that's where our concerns lie at the moment.

"This advice and encouragement or whatever it's to be has to come through the health service and the professionals that are trained and have the technical ability to give the advice for young people and their parents to make the decisions that will be necessary.

"If it's done like that, hopefully we can avoid any unpleasantness in schools, but I have to say, members have received letters already from pressure groups threatening legal action against them as school leaders and teachers."

​​Follow the latest updates below.

09:02 AM

'Less likely' 12- or 13-year-old will be deemed competent

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said there will be a "grade of competency" based on age when considering whether a child's decision to take the vaccine against a parent's wishes can be honoured.

When asked whether he would feel comfortable about a 12-year-old child taking up their offer of a vaccine if their parent had not consented, he told the BBC Today Programme: "I wouldn't feel comfortable about that.

"I think we have to be really careful that we go by the law, and the law clearly states that the child and parent should try to come to an agreed conclusion.

"But that if the child wants to go ahead or doesn't want to go ahead and the parent feels absolutely the opposite, then the clinician involved in administering the vaccine needs to be absolutely sure that the child is competent to make that decision.

"There will be a grade of competency from the age of 16 downwards, so 14 to 15-year-olds may be deemed competent to make that decision on their own, it's less likely that a 12 or 13-year-old will be deemed competent."

08:36 AM

Covid around the world, in pictures

Canadian Prime Minister and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau greets a constituent during a campaign stop in Port Coquitlam, Canada - Jeff Vinnick/Getty
Canadian Prime Minister and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau greets a constituent during a campaign stop in Port Coquitlam, Canada - Jeff Vinnick/Getty
Mateo Siron, an emergency medical responder for the Quezon City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, drives an ambulance to bring a Covid-19 patient to an isolation facility in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines - Ezra Acayan/Getty
Mateo Siron, an emergency medical responder for the Quezon City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, drives an ambulance to bring a Covid-19 patient to an isolation facility in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines - Ezra Acayan/Getty
Shaharul Hisam bin Baharuddin, 43, dressed as a clown, disinfects a lift inside a shopping mall in Taiping, Malaysia - Lim Huey Teng/Reuters
Shaharul Hisam bin Baharuddin, 43, dressed as a clown, disinfects a lift inside a shopping mall in Taiping, Malaysia - Lim Huey Teng/Reuters

08:07 AM

JCVI member: Varying advice will cause vaccine hesitancy

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has admitted that varying advice on whether the vaccine should be given en masse to 12 to 15-year-olds from his committee versus the chief medical officers (CMOs) will cause "uncertainty, hesitation and debate" among families.

He told the BBC Today Programme: "What we tried to do right the way through the pandemic as a committee is to be open and honest with the public and give them the best advice possible...

"I think the public in the end will appreciate our honesty and I think they will also appreciate the CMOs' perspective, and the Government offering them choice.

"I agree it will cause uncertainty, hesitation and debate within families, but sometimes life isn't black and white, and this is one of those situations."

He added that parents and children need to be "properly informed" and their choices on whether or not to have the vaccine should be "respected".

07:42 AM

Messaging around vaccinating children 'hasn't helped', concedes public health expert

Professor Devi Sridhar, personal chair in global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said mixed messaging surrounding jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds "hasn't helped".

She told Good Morning Britain: "The mixed messaging hasn't helped. I personally think part of it is because they were so late with a decision - we have just had the same evidence that other countries have had since May and June, and those countries ran ahead because they knew the school year was coming and started vaccinating their children.

"There hasn't really been new evidence that's come up in the UK shift in position, so I think part of that is why we have had mixed messaging - they're trying to explain to people why they're doing something now that they didn't do two months ago."

She added: "Every virologist I know, whether it's in Germany or in France or in the States or Canada, have gotten their child vaccinated as soon as they become eligible, it hasn't been something they struggled with, it's been, 'actually I want to protect my child as fast as possible'."

07:34 AM

Government to unveil winter blueprint with plans for booster jabs

The Government is to set out plans for Covid booster jabs as ministers unveil their blueprint for "living with the virus" through the winter.

It is expected all over-50s will be offered a third jab - starting with the over-70s and the most vulnerable.

The shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be administered at least six months after the second dose amid concerns the protection it gives to older people fades over time.

Ministers believe it will help ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed by new cases of the disease as it moves into the autumn and winter.

However, it has been criticised by some scientists, who argue the priority now should be to get the jab to those countries which have received only scant quantities of the vaccine.

07:04 AM

Marginal benefit for vaccinating children, JCVI says

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), explained why there is a "marginal health benefit" for children with no underlying health concerns being vaccinated against coronavirus.

Prof Harnden told the BBC Today Programme: "What we have said on our committee is that there is a marginal health benefit from the vaccination.

"That's because the risks of Covid to well young children is very small indeed, but the benefits of the vaccine are very small, because of the small risk of a very rare side effect.

"We felt that on balance that we couldn't give advice based on the health benefits alone.

"But the CMOs (chief medical officers) have re-looked at this, and they've looked at a much wider thing about educational factors which were much outside our remit - such as school infection control, social isolation, school closures - and they felt that on balance there was more of a benefit in offering the vaccination."

06:58 AM

Vaccinating children over five 'next issue on horizon', says expert

The prospect of vaccinating children over five is the "next issue on the horizon", an expert in public health said.

Professor Devi Sridhar, personal chair in global public health at the University of Edinburgh, told Good Morning Britain that Pfizer was applying for its vaccine to be used in over-fives in the US.

"The exciting thing on the horizon to mention, even for parents of younger kids," she said.

"It looks like Pfizer is going for approval of the vaccine for five to 11 year olds in the United States in October so this is going to be the next issue on the horizon - once we deal with the 12-17 year olds whether we do that for the under-12s."

06:52 AM

Winter lockdown 'absolutely last resort', says vaccines minister

A winter lockdown would be an "absolutely last resort" in the face of rising Covid-19 cases in the colder months, according to a Government minister.

Speaking to Sky News, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "Lockdowns would be an absolutely last resort.

"We're about to embark on a massive booster campaign and of course a flu vaccination programme - I am concerned about flu, we haven't had much flu circulating anywhere in the world, and in a bad year we could lose up to 25,000 people to flu."

Asked whether he could guarantee families could spend Christmas together, the Conservative MP said: "The important thing to remember is that, as we embark on the winter months, viruses have an inbuilt advantage, whether it be flu or the Covid virus. As (England's chief medical officer) Chris Whitty set out yesterday, it would be foolhardy to think this thing has already transitioned from pandemic to endemic.

"The direction we're taking - a massive booster campaign, a varied surveillance system, a really fit for purpose test and trace system - that is where we think we will be able to end up, confident that we have the infrastructure in place to deliver on this.

"But of course, we have to have contingency planning. All the time we have information coming in on how the virus is behaving.

"Winter gives the virus an inbuilt advantage - boosters reduce that advantage by hopefully taking the most vulnerable out of harm's way."

06:41 AM

Children can only overrule parents after meeting with clinician

Nadhim Zahawi said children would only be able to choose to have the coronavirus vaccine against their parents' wishes following a meeting with a clinician.

The vaccines minister told Sky News: "Children will have a leaflet that they can share with their parents and of course we have a consent form that will go to them either electronically and, in some schools physically, to their parents, and their parents will then read all the information, have to give consent if the child is to be vaccinated.

"On the very rare occasion where there is a difference of opinion between the parent and the 12-15 year-old, where the parent for example doesn't want to give consent but the 12-15 year-old wants to have the vaccine, then the first step is the clinician will bring the parent and the child together to see whether they can reach consent.

"If that is not possible, then if the child is deemed to be competent - and this has been around since the '80s for all vaccination programmes in schools - if the child is deemed to be competent, Gillick competence as it is referred to, then the child can have the vaccine.

"But these are very rare occasions and it is very important to remember that the School Age Immunisation Service is incredibly well equipped to deal with this - clinicians are very well versed in delivering vaccinations to 12 to 15-year-olds in schools."

06:40 AM

Headteachers already threatened with legal action over vaccines for children

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary for the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), has said his members have already been threatened with legal action over vaccinating children.

He said: "What's really important here is it's not teachers or school leaders that are able to give advice to young people or parents about whether they should take up the voluntary vaccine or not, and that's where our concerns lie at the moment.

"This advice and encouragement or whatever it's to be has to come through the health service and the professionals that are trained and have the technical ability to give the advice for young people and their parents to make the decisions that will be necessary.

"If it's done like that, hopefully we can avoid any unpleasantness in schools, but I have to say, members have received letters already from pressure groups threatening legal action against them as school leaders and teachers.

"If this takes place now this is a decision of the government rather than school leaders, and as I say it with the right with the right medical advice, then there shouldn't be any need for things like that as long as people can make well informed decisions."

06:22 AM

Today's front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, Sep 14.

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04:57 AM

How did it come to this?

The chances of a child dying from Covid is two in a million. It is more likely they will die getting hit by lightning. And yet on Monday, the Government unveiled plans for the mass vaccination of healthy 12- to 15-year-olds, Camilla Turner writes.

How did it come to this? The answer may lie in the chaos in schools over the past 18 months created by one disastrous policy after another, which has resulted in two years of cancelled exams and huge disruption to children’s education. The answer, or so ministers appear to believe, is to vaccinate pupils to try and keep schools rather than run the risk of yet another term of turmoil.

Read more: Why it might take more than a shot in the dark on vaccinating pupils to end school disruption

04:34 AM

Today's top stories

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