Teenagers will be able to overrule parents to get Covid vaccine, government says

Vaccines minister says long-established principle of ‘Gillick competence’ will apply

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Tuesday 14 September 2021 10:10 BST

Children 12 years old and above will be able to overrule their parents and get a Covid vaccine, the government has confirmed.

Speaking on Tuesday morning vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said a doctor or nurse would try to intervene when there was a "difference of opinion" between the child and parent.

But if after a discussion with the clinician the parent was still opposed to the child been immunised then the teenager, if deemed competent, would be allowed to proceed.

The approach mirrors the one taken since 1985 for all vaccination programmes in schools, after a decision by the House of Lords, then England and Wales' highest court.

"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," Mr Zahawi told Sky News.

"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."

The minister added: "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."

The government this week confirmed that Covid-19 jabs will be offered to all children in the UK aged between 12 and 15 as early as next week, following a decision by the chief medical officers.

The decision was taken amid concerns that a winter surge in cases and hospitalisations could hit the country as the weather gets colder.

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