IT WAS announced yesterday that the Medicines Healthcare and products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the Pfizer vaccine for British 12-15-year-olds. This decision comes in the same week that 93 Israeli doctors wrote to their government begging them not to use Covid-19 vaccines on children. Israel has been the testing ground for the Pfizer jab and the only country in the world where phase 4 clinical trials are taking place. Phase 4 is the post-marketing stage after approval has been given.
The doctors said: ‘We believe that not even a handful of children should be endangered through mass vaccination against a disease not dangerous to them . . .
‘Furthermore, it cannot be ruled out that the vaccine will have long-term adverse effects that have not yet been discovered at this time, including on growth, reproductive system or fertility . . .
‘The increasingly prevalent opinion within the scientific community is that the vaccine cannot lead to herd immunity, therefore there is currently no “altruistic” justification for vaccinating children to protect at-risk populations.’
MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine does not agree and said: ‘We have carefully reviewed clinical trial data and have concluded that the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective in this age group and that the benefits of this vaccine outweigh any risk.’
To reassure doubters she added: ‘We have in place a comprehensive safety surveillance strategy for monitoring the safety of all UK-approved Covid-19 vaccines and this surveillance will include the 12-15-year age group.’
This is the same system that missed the fatal blood clots caused by the AstraZeneca jab and failed to react until after 18 countries had suspended it. The MHRA then said the AZ vaccine was unsuitable for anyone under 30, and then changed that to under 40, but the deaths of BBC presenter Lisa Shaw, 44, and mother of three Tanya Smith, 43, put a big question mark over that advice.
I personally spoke to the family of Lucy Taberer, 47, also a mother of three, who died a painful and frightening death after reacting to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Her death certificate confirms that the strokes and blood clots that ended up in her brain and killed her were solely caused by the AZ Covid jab.
Her partner Mark Tomlin, unable to visit and comfort his fiancée while she was alive because of Covid restrictions, was invited by the hospital to say goodbye. He said: ‘They switched off the life support machines, and she survived for about ten minutes. I held her hand and just kept telling her “I love you, don’t do this, please come home”.’ Ms Taberer’s funeral was on May 4, the date on which the couple were planning to marry next year.
There is a lot of approval for the MHRA’s decision to allow teenagers to take the vaccine, mainly from the BBC, but high-profile experts strongly advised caution.
Professor Dominic Wilkinson, consultant paediatrician and Professor of Medical Ethics at Oxford University, said: ‘There are ethical reasons for thinking that it would be premature to extend our vaccine rollout to those under 16.
‘First, it is not yet clear that Covid vaccines are in the best interests of children and young people. A vaccine can be in someone’s best interests if the benefit outweighs any side effects.
‘Children have much less severe illness from coronavirus than adults. This is good news of course, but it means that the balance between benefit and risk from vaccines is difficult to assess. So far, trials of the Covid vaccines are reassuring, but those studies gave the vaccine to only about 3,000 young people (aged 12 to 17). They are not large enough to identify rare events. For example, we do not know whether there is a risk of serious blood clots in young people who have Covid vaccines. If there is a risk, we simply cannot say yet whether that risk is higher or lower than the risk that young people face from Covid-19.’
He added that with a restricted supply of vaccine globally, it is unethical to give it to those at very low risk here when there are others overseas at much higher risk of dying.
Professor Russell Viner, Professor of Adolescent Health, University College London, said: ‘Decisions about wider use in teenagers need to carefully balance the benefits and risks and the ethical issues involved in vaccinating children. The early reports about myocarditis in young men need to be properly investigated and may not be related to the Pfizer vaccine, however they provide a warning that we should not rush into these decisions.’
Professor Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics, University of Bristol (a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation), said: ‘The key question to address now is whether it is actually necessary to immunise children in order to protect them from the infection (or whether vaccinating adults only would be sufficient to control spread of infection as seen in Israel) and in order to prevent further disruption to their education and social development.’
Dr Raine is not worried. She said: ‘No extension to an authorisation would be approved unless the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been met.
‘It will now be for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to advise on whether this age group will be vaccinated as part of the deployment programme.’
In effect, Raine has lit the blue touch-paper and is now standing well back. If things go wrong it will not be her responsibility.
Footnote: You can add your name to a petition against Covid vaccinations for children here.