French ethics committee questions rollout of Covid vaccine to adolescents

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France’s national ethics committee has raised concerns about the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine to children on 15 June. It questions putting the responsibility for France’s herd immunity on the shoulders of adolescents.

“Given that a significant number of adults…will not get vaccinated, is it ethical to put the responsibility on minors?" asked the CCNE Wednesday in a report requested by the Health ministry.

The report comes after the government already moved forward with its announcement that young people, aged 12 to 18 years, will be eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as of 15 June.

In approving the vaccine for young people, the French health authority highlighted their role in the race towards herd immunity.

But the ethics committee says this raises issues of consent for minors, who are already fragile after months of confinements and curfews.

While there is currently no obligation for anyone, adult or child, to be vaccinated, there will be pressure to do so.

“If getting vaccinated is presented to them as their only chance to return to a normal life, this pressure raises the question of the validity of their consent,” wrote the committee, adding that there is a “risk of stigmatisation for adolescents who do not want to resort to it".

"Is there an absolute urgency in starting vaccinations right away?" asked the committee, which would rather vaccination for adolescents start in the autumn, giving people enough time to be properly informed.

Health officials offering vaccines should provide young people and their parents – who will be the ones giving the consent on behalf of their children – with information about the risks and the benefits, but also “alternatives that are available to avoid being contaminated” by Covid.

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