Continuing the discussion from Coronavirus COVID-19 (2019-nCoV) Thread - 2021 Breaking News:
Quoting from @eschrodinger’s post in that thread*:
Huge vaccine news. Pfizer has applied to the FDA for authorization for its vaccine to be given to 12 to 15 year olds – it was already authorized for 16 and up. That is expected to be approved next week.
Now they will be requesting to make it available for 2 to 11 year olds in September.
I split this topic off because it is significant in its own right. I’m going to base this OP around my local rules simply because that’s what I’m familiar with - please feel free to add in your own local rules and your interpretation of their implications.
I read @eschrodinger’s post a couple of days ago and thought, Yeah, that makes sense, that addresses the issue of unvaccinated children forming an ongoing reservoir of infection that can breed new variants which could spill back into the wider population.
It took a couple of days of percolation to realize that this is only one part of the argument.
If I get vaccinated, this is partly for my own good - I could die from COVID or be severely harmed by it. And partly I’m doing it for the greater good - we inch towards herd immunity and control of the disease. For these reasons I accept the risks and consent to vaccination.
A child may not be able to give consent. And in the case of a child, the personal benefits of vaccination may be relatively small - compared, say, to the greater good that we seek to achieve.
From the UK NHS website:
Children under the age of 16 can consent to their own treatment if they’re believed to have enough intelligence, competence and understanding to fully appreciate what’s involved in their treatment. This is known as being Gillick competent.
Otherwise, someone with parental responsibility can consent for them.
(My bold. “Parental responsibility” may mean parent, guardian or Court of Protection)
My reading of this is that, in the case of consent to COVID vaccination, a child would have to be able to understand that whilst the risks associated with COVID might, for them, be relatively slight, there is a greater good to be sought; and that accepting the risks of vaccination (however small they may be) would be a significantly altruistic act, largely to benefit others.
Wow. Well, I think I’m supposed to express an opinion here, in order to start things off. My opinion is this: we really, really need some ethical guidelines on this fast. I don’t know how old a child would have to be in order to understand enough to give consent; but below that age I assume that proof of a positive personal risk-benefit in that age group has to be obtained before vaccination (on the say-so of someone with parental responsibility) can be considered ethical.
* - there seems to be some issue with embedded items in split-off topic, so I quoted from @eschrodinger’s post as I couldn’t embed it.