We're close to all adults vaccinated for covid now in the UK. Magnificent achievement, well done. Here in Scotland our First Minister today announced "walk-in coronavirus vaccination centres will be open in every part of mainland Scotland from Monday.
All mainland health boards will offer drop-in clinics as the rollout nears the target of all Scottish adults receiving at least one dose.
Everyone aged 18 and over will be able to attend one of the walk-in centres for their first jag or – if eight weeks have passed – their second dose without needing an appointment. "
What, though, are we doing about the under 18s?
Are we just going to say job done and leave them?
This can't be the right policy. For a start there are disabled and sick kids that are clinically vulnerable to covid. For them it isn't a choice between a miniscule chance of a vaccine-related blood clot or a miniscule chance of a covid-related death. They are in real danger and have been for a year and a half. It's unconscionable that children at heightened risk of serious illness or death from covid should be denied vaccination.
Vaccines are offered to children aged 12-15 with severe neuro-disabilities but that is a tiny part of the vulnerable disabled children at heightened risk. When the pandemic hit, 53,000 under-18s in England with disabilities that made them vulnerable to coronavirus began to shield away at home.
More generally should it not be up to the parents? I can see a case for, where a parent is against vaccination and the benefit is minimal, respecting the parents' wishes. Those parents are a tiny minority.
And here are some of the other arguments for vaccinating kids:
- the kids and the parents want to be vaccinated. 9 in 10 of parents in England approve of covid jabs for children.
- we are still telling kids to isolate if there's an outbreak. This is perhaps because we're pretending we're not just abandoning kids to covid while in effect pursuing a herd immunity policy that means exactly that.
- the risk to teachers and other school staff.
- the risk that a high rate of infected kids sees new variants that (from the virus's point of view) work better. Perhaps even becoming more dangerous for children.
- it slows down society returning to normal. Just jab them. It could take months for enough kids to have caught covid to the point where it can be reliably claimed that herd immunity is established.
- Unvaccinated people may face discrimination. Even vaccinated parents could be excluded from activities for vaccinated people only if their children aren't vaccinated.
- Some kids will die. In addition to the prospect of wholesale carnage among disabled kids, a prospect that doesn't even appear to be on the government's radar, every kid that dies, however statistically anomalous is a tragedy, a heartbreak for their family and the waste of a young life.