Parents in Victoria have been told children as young as 12-years-old may obtain a COVID vaccination without their parent’s consent.
According to an email sent to parents from Victoria’s Department of Education and Training, a health professional will assess the maturity levels of individuals under 18 years and decide whether the child is mature enough to give “informed consent.”
The email states: “Students aged 12 to 15 can book their own appointment and may be able to consent to vaccination themselves if the health professional assesses them to be a mature minor. This means that the health professional assesses that they understand the information relevant to this decision to be vaccinated and the effect of that decision.”
The email, which is addressed to “parents/guardians and carers” also states, “We have written to your child to provide them with information about their eligibility for getting a vaccination. Students will be supported in every way possible to be vaccinated before the end of the  school year.”
According to the Victorian Covid-19 Vaccination Guidelines, immunisers may administer the COVID-19 vaccine to an individual under the age of 18 based on their assessment of the child’s capacity to provide informed consent. This is determined by whether the child is able to understand the risks and benefits of the vaccine.
The guide states: “For children or adolescents under the age of 18 years, who are presenting for vaccination without a parent, guardian or other medical treatment decision maker, capacity to consent will be assessed based on the principles outlined in Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority.”
The 1985 decision ruled that children aged under 16 years may give consent to a treatment, independently of parental consent, if they display intelligence and understanding of the issues. The ruling applies in Australia under common law.
The administration of COVID vaccination to healthy children has generated controversy in the UK this past week. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a scientific body that advises the British Government in relation to vaccination, refused to approve the vaccination of healthy children aged 12-15 despite “huge pressure” from politicians.
The reason for the JCVI’s decision was their concern about the risk of heart inflammation from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, particularly in boys. The JCVI determined that this vaccine risk outweighs the “marginal” risk that the COVID virus poses to healthy children.
But UK political leaders have ignored the advice from their vaccine experts, deciding on Monday to push ahead with vaccination of children from age 12. The UK’s vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi has declared that the “mature minor” principle will enable parents’ wishes to be overruled by children who decide to have the vaccine.
Predictably, the Government’s decision has provoked fury among British parents, some of whom have vowed to keep their children home during the COVID vaccination campaign.
The parents’ group “Us For Them” has warned on their website that “There is no prospect given the coercive messaging we have already seen in the community and in schools themselves that 12-15-year-olds will be able to provide informed consent, free of pressure.
“It is a medical decision for a vaccination that the JCVI acknowledges has a finely balanced risk-benefit profile – at best. How could that possibly be articulated to a 12-year-old and allow them to weigh up those risks and benefits? There is no prospect that informed consent’s free and voluntary aspects can be satisfied- especially not in a school environment.”