COVID-19 vaccines: unnecessary for healthy 12 to 15-year-olds

Grave concerns about the balance of risk. Vaccines are not required to prevent educational disruption.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is the statutory body with responsibility over several decades for all advice on immunisations and has been repeatedly lauded by the Prime Minister and Secretary of State. Yet when on 3 September, they again published clear advice against a rollout to this age group, the decision has now been passed to the four chief medical officers to look at wider societal impacts.

Reading the report from the JCVI, they highlight not only the very low risk to children from COVID-19 but also the known increased risks in the younger age groups from vaccine-associated myocarditis. Data from Israel have shown this to be as high as 1 in 6230 for 16-19 year-old boys after the second dose. The JCVI has had a conference call to a group of paediatric cardiologists in the US who are reporting significant changes on cardiac MRI scans in affected children. To date, follow-up scans are only available for 6 of the 63 children, with persistent changes in 4 of the 6 and the remaining scans due in the next few months. Furthermore, this group has information on a further 100 affected children (personal communication).  

The JCVI report also states ‘The extent of any indirect benefits is highly uncertain given our current understanding of the impact of vaccination on transmission in the short and medium term.’ We know that healthy children have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 repeatedly in the last year and are likely already to have a large degree of naturally-acquired immunity. We also know that the requirement for healthy child contacts to self-isolate ended on 16 August, so this policy which caused huge disruption to education, no longer applies.

Below is an open letter from 60 doctors and scientists to the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) of our four nations reminding them of their responsibility to First Do No Harm. It would be a brave or indeed reckless doctor, who would go against the JCVI advice. 

6 September 2021 – Open letter to:

Professor Chris Whitty – CMO England
Michael McBride – CMO Northern Ireland
Gregor Smith – CMO Scotland
Frank Atherton – CMO Wales

Dear Professor Whitty, Dr McBride, Dr Smith and Dr Atherton,

We are a group of 60 British doctors and scientists who have grave concerns about the balance of risk for COVID-19 vaccination of healthy children.

The JCVI in their statement on 19 July, said that ‘any decision on deployment of vaccines must be made on the basis that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks to those people who are vaccinated’, placing the safety of the young in a primary position and drawing attention to ‘rare but serious adverse events’: based on a balanced view of the available evidence, they stated clearly that ‘the health benefits in this population are small, and the benefits to the wider population are highly uncertain. At this time, JCVI is of the view that the health benefits of universal vaccination in children and young people below the age of 18 years do not outweigh the potential risks’.  

Professor Whitty in a press conference earlier in the year had made clear that because of the known, though rare, side effects of the vaccines and the clear relationship between COVID-19 severity and age, there would be an age below which the balance between benefit and risk would reverse, probably at around 18 years of age. The guidance that children at particularly high risk from COVID-19, such that the benefit was likely to outweigh any risks, would be offered vaccination, seemed a logical position, clarifying the compassionate grounds in the previous JCVI guidance. 

We were therefore extremely puzzled when two weeks later, new guidance was issued for the rollout to include healthy 16-17 year-olds but with no new data presented to explain this change in guidance. In a further statement on 3 September, the JCVI have looked again at the safety data and have reiterated that any benefit of vaccination for healthy 12-15s would be marginal and that ‘there is considerable uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the potential harms’.

We note that the Israeli data show a myocarditis risk to young men aged 20-24 after the second dose of Pfizer at 1 in 10,463, rising to 1 in 6,230 for 16-19s. It is therefore particularly concerning that while the 16-17s are only being offered one dose in the first instance (presumably out of concern for this risk), all 18-25s are continuing to be offered a second dose. A recent report of 63 cases of vaccination-associated myocarditis in under 21s from the US, showed significant abnormalities on Cardiac Magnetic Resonance imaging, noted to be more severe than that seen previously in children with MISC-C. There is no long-term follow-up available on these children.  

Aside from the risks of myocarditis, there are also reports of microvascular clotting following mRNA vaccines, raising the possibility of pulmonary hypertension in future and no long-term safety data, particularly regarding autoimmune disease, carcinogenesis and any possible effects on future fertility.

The decision has now been passed to you, the four CMOs, to consider the impact on wider society and on disruption to education. Recent data has been published by both PHE and the CDC showing that viral loads / transmission rates are similar between vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals, making any consideration of societal benefits fruitless. We also now know that naturally-acquired immunity gives broader and better lasting protection than that afforded by vaccination. Vaccines are not required to prevent the educational disruption of school closures and/or isolation of healthy contacts, measures which have already been safely discontinued since 16 August. This would be using vaccination for political rather than health reasons.

We would ask that the CMOs remember the principle of First Do No Harm.

Yours sincerely,

-Dr Rosamond Jones, MBBS, MD, FRCPCH, retired consultant paediatrician
-Professor Anthony J Brookes, Department of Genetics & Genome Biology, University of Leicester
-Professor Richard Ennos, MA, PhD. Honorary Professorial Fellow, University of Edinburgh
-Professor Karol Sikora, MA, MBBChir, PhD, FRCR, FRCP, FFPM, Dean of Medicine, Buckingham University, Professor of Oncology
-Professor David Livermore, BSc, PhD, Professor of Medical Microbiology, University of East Anglia
-Professor Keith Willison, PhD, Professor of Chemical Biology, Imperial, London
-Professor Angus Dalgleish, MD, FRCP, FRACP, FRCPath, FMed Sci, Professor of Oncology, St Georges Hospital, London
-Professor John Watkins, Consultant Epidemiologist Cardiff University
-Professor John Fairclough FRCS FFSEM retired Honorary Consultant Surgeon 
-Professor Norman Fenton, CEng, CMath, PhD, FBCS, MIET, Professor of Risk Information Management, Queen Mary University of London
-Lord Moonie,  MBChB, MRCPsych, MFCM, MSc, House of Lords, former parliamentary under-secretary of state 2001-2003, former consultant in Public Health Medicine
-Dr Theresa Lawrie, MBBCh, PhD, Director, Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy Ltd, Bath
-Dr Roland Salmon, MB BS, MRCGP, FFPH, Consultant Epidemiologist (retired), former Director, Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (Wales)
-Dr Alan Mordue, MBChB, FFPH. Retired Consultant in Public Health Medicine & Epidemiology
-Dr John Flack, BPharm, PhD. Retired Director of Safety Evaluation,Beecham Pharmaceuticals 1980-1989 and Senior Vice-president for Drug Discovery 1990-92 SmithKline Beecham 
-Dr Gerry Quinn, PhD. Postdoctoral researcher in microbiology and immunology
-Dr Karen Horridge, MBChB(Hons), MSc, MRCP, FRCPCH, Consultant Paediatrician (Disability)
-Mr Anthony Hinton, MBChB, FRCS, Consultant ENT surgeon, London
-Dr Geoffrey Maidment, MBBS, MD, FRCP, retired consultant physician
-Mr Malcolm Loudon, MBChB, MD, FRCSEd, FRCS(Gen Surg), MIHM,VR, Consultant Surgeon
-Dr Christina Peers, MBBS,DRCOG,DFSRH,FFSRH, Consultant in Reproductive Health 
-Dr Noel Thomas, MA, MBChB, DCH, DObsRCOG, DTM&H, MFHom, retired doctor
-Dr Elizabeth Evans MA(Cantab), MBBS, DRCOG, Retired Doctor
-Katherine MacGilchrist, BSc (Hons), MSc, CEO/Systematic Review Director, Epidemica Ltd.
-Dr Greta Mushet, MBChB, MRCPsych, retired Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy
-Mr James Royle, MBChB, FRCS, MMedEd, Colorectal surgeon 
-Mr Ian F Comaish, MA, BM BCh, FRCOphth, FRANZCO, Consultant ophthalmologist
-Dr Helen Westwood MBChB MRCGP DCH DRCOG, General Practitioner
-Dr Jonathan Engler, MBChB, LlB (hons), DipPharmMed
-Dr Renée Hoenderkampf, General Practitioner
-Mr Colin Natali, BSc(hons) MBBS, FRCS (Orth) ,Consultant Spinal Surgeon
-Dr Alan Black, MBBS, MSc, DipPharmMed, retired pharmaceutical physician
-Dr Mark A Bell, MBChB, MRCP(UK), FRCEM, Consultant in Emergency Medicine
-Dr Livia Tossici-Bolt, PhD, NHS Clinical Scientist
-Dr Zac Cox, BDS, LCPH, Holistic Dentist, Homeopath
-Dr M, BSc(Hons) Medical Microbiology & Immunobiology, MBBCh BAO, MSc in Clinical Gerontology, MRCP(UK), FRCEM, FRCP(Edinburgh), NHS Emergency Medicine & geriatrics
-Dr Branko Latinkic, BSc, PhD, Reader in Biosciences
-Dr Kulvinder Singh Manik, MBBS, General Practitioner
-Dr Michael D Bell, MBChB, MRCGP, retired General Practitioner
-Dr Jason Lester, MRCP, FRCR, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Rutherford Cancer Centre, Newport
-Dr Clare Craig, BMBCh, FRCPath, Pathologist
-Dr Scott McLachan, FAIDH, MCSE, MCT, DSysEng, LLM, MPhil, Postdoctoral researcher, Risk & Information Group
-Dr Franziska Meuschel, MD, ND, PhD, LFHom, BSEM, Nutritional, Environmental and Integrated Medicine
-Dr Emma Brierly, MRCGP, General Practitioner
-Dr Sarah Myhill, MBBS, Dip NM, Retired GP, Independent Naturopathic Physician
-Michael Cockayne, MSc, PGDip, SCPHNOH, BA, RN, Occupational health practitioner
-Dr Christopher Exley, PhD, FRSB, retired professor in Bioinorganic Chemistry
-Julia Annakin, RN, Immunisation nurse specialist

and 25 others….

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