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Local authorities should seek urgent legal advice on school Covid-19 vaccinations, campaign group says

Lawyers for Liberty has warned local authorities and schools to urgently take independent legal advice on the potential legal implications of the vaccine programme for 12-15 year olds.

The campaign group, which also served a claim this month on the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) over the approval of Covid-19 MRNA injections for children, warned the vaccination of healthy 12 to 15-year-olds at school could also put headteachers at risk of legal action.

An application for interim relief for an injunction to restrain the roll out of vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds has also been made as part of the group's judicial review application.

Yesterday, as part of its Autumn and Winter plan for Covid, the government outlined its scheme to vaccinate children between 12 and 15 at school. Lawyers for Liberty criticised the government's plan in an open letter sent to the Health and Safety Executive Chair, Sarah Newton, and Ofsted's Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman.

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The letter said there are potential legal and safeguarding ramifications if a serious injury or death occurs in schools, as a result of a vaccination given to a child while the school is acting in loco parentis.

The group drew upon recent advice given in the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) Report on COVID-19 vaccination of children aged 12 to 15 years, published this month (3 September).

The JCVI said the available evidence indicates that the individual health benefits from COVID-19 vaccination are small in those aged 12 to 15 years who do not have underlying health conditions which put them at risk of severe COVID-19.

"The potential risks from vaccination are also small, with reports of post-vaccination myocarditis being very rare, but potentially serious and still in the process of being described," the report said.

The JCVI committee said the benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms.

However, the report added: "The margin of benefit, based primarily on a health perspective, is considered too small to support advice on a universal programme of vaccination of otherwise healthy 12 to 15-year-old children at this time."

Lawyers for Liberty said that if schools are intended to be the ultimate setting for the Child Vaccination Programme, then school leaders will be deemed to have approved the vaccination against the JCVI Advice. As a result, there may be a safeguarding concern that would not align with the legal duties of schools, as outlined in the DfE document Keeping Children Safe in Education.

The group called upon OFSTED and the HSE to:

• Alert schools and local authorities to the information contained in its letter and ask them to urgently take legal advice on the potential legal implications for schools and councils if they roll out the Covid-19 vaccines in schools against JCVI advice;
• await the decision on the judicial review scheduled to be heard;
• ensure that all institutions receive the positive and explicit written consent from all adults holding parental responsibility for each child in writing, after providing them with appropriate guidance of the risks and benefits and the normal 14 days time period to come to a decision that is standard practice before other vaccinations administered in schools;
• complete a full individual Risk Benefit Analysis for each child, which considers the child's personal and familial medical history, together with more general risks such as potential unknown allergies to excipients;
• perform (and keep under review) a full Health & Safety Risk Assessment for the purpose of risk management of any harm arising from the conduct of the school, especially where such conduct could expose pupils to a risk of harm under the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Lawyers for Liberty is a libertarian campaign group made up of volunteer lawyers and members of the judiciary who, as their website states, “defend individual human rights, the universality of human rights, the rule of law, and equal treatment and fairness”.

Adam Carey

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