Ethically Wrong to Coerce Covid Vaccines for 12-15s

Pressuring people to get their 12-15 year old children vaccinated with the Pfizer-Biontech Covid jabs is a test. It’s a test of integrity and intelligence for our media and health professionals. And it’s a test of both, along with political restraint, for our parents. But above all, it’s a test of who can recognise it as ethically wrong.

I predict the vast majority will fail the test.

The Lie and the Threat

Prime Minister Morrison swaggered into saying 12-15 year olds will be vaccinated at a press conference today, despite the fact ATAGI hasn’t decided yet (transcript Update: ATAGI recommended 27 August following TGA provisional registration). He stopped short of talking about taking measures against parents who don’t vaccinate their children, but there is a National Cabinet meeting later today. And frankly, that hot mess of tyrants could decide anything. Penalising unvaccinated adults is on today’s agenda.

Across the board people are misrepresenting the benefits of vaccination for 12-15 year olds. In precisely the same way they have misrepresented the risk-adjusted benefits of vaccines for healthy adults under 60.

The Prime Minister, the Premiers and all their orbiting sycophants are blatantly lying to convince people to vaccinate their children. It is utterly pointless to vaccinate children that are not at risk of major disease, are a minor transmission vector at most, and with vaccines that don’t stop infection or transmission. It is utterly unethical to do so for the possible benefit of other adults rather than the children themselves.

This is the most egregious lie to the Australian people I have seen.

And today the PM has said businesses can legally discriminate against the unvaccinated and exclude them from their businesses.

The Relevant Considerations

What do we know?

  • the Pfizer vaccine is not fully approved for 12-15s by either the FDA or the TGA. It is only available under Emergency Use Authorisation (US), or Provisional Registration (Aust). Those organisations require ongoing clinical trials or observational studies, some of which will report in…2023 (see CDC Letter to BionTech p5, CDC Letter to Pfizer p10,12)
  • 12-15s are at a vanishingly small risk of major illness or death due to Covid (p7 ECDC 2nd Update); substantially smaller than from the seasonal flu (eg p5 NSW flu surveillance report Oct 2009), whose vaccines governments have never pushed on children
  • Schools are not a major site of Covid transmission (p12 ECDC 2nd Update)
  • Teachers are more likely to be index cases than students (p12 ECDC 2nd Update)
  • There is no consistent evidence 12-15s are a major vector of infection. Their contribution to infection is assumed to increase with new variants, and some studies confirm this. The evidence is not yet clear for the new variants. (p12 ECDC 2nd Update)
  • Vaccines allow for an increasing level of breakthrough infections, so do not guarantee reduction in infections and transmission in any age group, reducing their benefit
  • The benefits to vaccinated 12-15s are correspondingly small
  • There are risks to 12-15s which have only been identified in post-market studies (particularly myocarditis and pericarditis), and there is no guarantee that with widespread uptake before the completion of normal clinical trial periods more serious adverse events will not emerge.

Even here in Australia our ABC and preening medicos accept that vaccination is to prevent transmission to others, not the child’s own infection or illness (my emphasis):

Fiona Russell, a paediatrician specialising in epidemiology and vaccination at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, said a majority of 12- to 15-year-olds must be vaccinated by the start of 2022.

“I would hope, depending on supply and logistics, secondary school children should all be done by the new school year at the latest,” she said.

Professor Russell said it was most important to see more vaccine uptake in priority groups, particularly Indigenous Australians, but vaccinating children had critical benefits for the whole community.

“Hospitalisation is uncommon in this age group so we’re talking about vaccinating to prevent transmission,” she said.

“Vaccinating these children is an important part of the strategy as we want to get them back to school and we want to prevent infections coming home to parents.”

In July an article in the British Medical Journal blog set out the medical question clearly:

In terms of the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from children to adults, this is also low and decreasing, though not negligible. School teachers are more likely to get SARS-CoV-2 from other adults than they are from their students. The contribution of schools to community transmission has been consistently low across jurisdictions. In addition, considering estimates that 42% of those aged 5 to 17 years in the US are now post-covid, this should only lower the risk of transmission from children.  Add to this the fact that most adults in rich western countries have received at least one dose of covid-19 vaccine—around 80% of UK adults now have SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, whether from past infection or from vaccination—and it seems the opportunities for children to be vectors of transmission to adults are dwindling.

Given all these considerations, the assertion that vaccinating children against SARS-CoV-2 will protect adults remains hypothetical.  Even if we were to assume this protection does exist, the number of children that would need to be vaccinated to protect just one adult from a bout of severe covid-19—considering the low transmission rates, the high proportion of children already being post-covid, and most adults being vaccinated or post-covid—would be extraordinarily high. Moreover, this number would likely compare unfavourably to the number of children that would be harmed, including for rare serious events.

The Real Issue is Ethical, Not Medical

The blunt political calculus is clear. The Prime Minister and Premiers want that arbitrary 70%-80% target reached, and they’ll do anything to get there. They need to make vaccination a given. To drive that cultural presumption, they’re willing to even go against the most basic of medical principles, and the most basic of human rights, both of which have taken hundreds of years to become established:

You cannot coerce someone to undergo a medical procedure to benefit someone else

There is literally no risk-adjusted benefit to 12-15 year olds in being vaccinated against Covid19. Medicos will claim otherwise, trading on their credentials. Any such claim should immediately be confronted by the fact that the vaccine is not licensed for use for 12-15s, the 12-15 hospitalisation and death rates, and that the FDA has mandated further studies as a condition of the continuing EUA. And even mention dear Dr Russell quoted above accepting that the whole point is to stop transmission, not protect children’s health.

Instead, what we hear is that 12-15s should be vaccinated to protect others.

This is an egregious overturning of basic principle of medical treatment that involves any risk. Anyone who accepts it is either a fool or fundamentally evil. There should be no need for further explanation or words; it is obvious on its face.

Any penalties or reduced freedoms for 12-15 year olds based on vaccination status are utterly unjustified.

And then, the ethical one:

Should society be considering vaccinating children, subjecting them to any risk, not for the purpose of benefiting them but in order to protect adults? We believe the onus is on adults to protect themselves. In multiple jurisdictions around the world, the vast majority of adults, including those that are at high risk, have not been fully vaccinated against covid-19…There is no need to rush to vaccinate children against covid-19—the vast majority stands little to benefit, and it is ethically dubious to pursue a hypothetical protection of adults while exposing children to harms, known and unknown.

https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2021/07/13/covid-19-vaccines-for-children-hypothetical-benefits-to-adults-do-not-outweigh-risks-to-children/

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