Covid-19 Vaccines: Do Not Coerce Jamaican Parents into Vaccinating Their Children
The Jamaican Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms guarantees to each citizen personal autonomy to live life and to make decisions that are of fundamental personal importance, such as medical care, free from state interference.
On August 19, 2021, there were media reports that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information of Jamaica (MOEYI) would require children aged 12 and over to be vaccinated before being allowed to attend face-to-face classes starting in September 2021 and/or that the vaccinated would be given priority. This followed the Government’s announcement of the arrival of 208,260 doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, specially earmarked for this age group.
No public discussion, consultation with parents or legislative changes to bring this position to pass have so far been undertaken. Jamaican parents are now expected to make a major medical/health decision in relation to their children with limited information, and to do so within the 4-day vaccination blitz arranged by the MOEYI starting on August 21, 2021.
Jamaican parents have been given the option of either rushing to vaccinate their children without adequate information or continuing to have their children suffer under the challenges to education and emotional and physical health caused by online learning and extended separation from friends and teachers.
For responsible parental decisions to be made with informed consent, a supportive environment, free of coercion and with transparent access to the relevant facts is required. The announced intention of the MOEYI to tie the rapid vaccination of children to the much anticipated and desired delivery of goods and services (the return to face-to-face school) is, simply put, coercion.
We appreciate the efforts of the government to make COVID-19 vaccines available to adults who wish to receive them; we are however concerned that the government seeks to insert itself into what is a private family decision by individual parents on behalf of each of their children, perhaps in consultation with their preferred medical practitioner(s) and based on the particular circumstances of each child and the risks at hand.
The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has said, “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.”
There is no evidence that the actual and potential risks of giving children the COVID vaccine are outweighed by any proven benefits.
Parents and ordinary citizens alike across Jamaica call on the Government of Jamaica to:
1. Immediately make it clear to the public that a child’s access to face-to-face classes in September will NOT be dependent on his/her vaccination status.
Actively promote and enable early at-home treatment of COVID-19, as is being practiced by several Jamaican doctors in the private sector, through public education campaigns and public-private partnerships with private doctors, to immediately assist in relieving the pressure on the public health sector, without having to curtail fundamental human rights to achieve that objective.
Systematically and accurately record adverse events from the vaccines. This includes facilitating the reporting of adverse effects and ensuring public access to these reports.
Provide full disclosure of the information about adverse effects of the vaccines so that true informed consent can be achieved.
- The Risks Do Not Match the Benefits
The known short-term negative effects of vaccination (e.g. blood clots, myocarditis/pericarditis-inflammation of the heart) and unknown long term effects of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are greater than the benefits because the risk of infection, transmission, hospitalisation and death in children aged 12 - 18, even with the Delta variant, are very low.
2.Ability to Transmit Delta Variant is Unrelated to Vaccination Status
3.The Pfizer Data on Children are Not Yet Clear
It is now known that there is a risk of heart inflammation with the Pfizer vaccine, particularly in young men. Based on the reported events of heart inflammation in the USA, the risk is about 1 in 3,000. Data on the incidence of these events in children and young people are currently limited, and the longer-term health effects from the myocarditis events reported are not yet well understood.
Parents must therefore ask themselves which risk is worth taking - a 1 in 3,000 risk of heart inflammation or a 2 in 1 million (1 in 500,000) risk of death from COVID-19?
4. The World Health Organisation (WHO) does not Recommend Vaccination of Children
Although the WHO has indicated that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for most people 18 years and older; ‘safe’ could only mean in the short term since no long-term data are available. The WHO has itself pointed out that children and adolescents have milder disease and that “more evidence is needed on the use of the different COVID-19 vaccines in children to be able to make general recommendations on vaccinating children against COVID-19.”
5. Major Differences between Mandatory Childhood (traditional) Vaccines versus New COVID-19 Vaccines
The mandatory childhood vaccines against diseases such as Tuberculosis, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, etc. are different from the COVID-19 vaccines. These diseases are known to cause significant morbidity and mortality to children and in circumstances where it is known that children transmit those diseases. There is a clear risk of transmission of those diseases in a school setting.
Whereas the mandatory childhood vaccines have benefitted from long-term studies detailing clear known benefits and small known risks of vaccination, the COVID-19 vaccines are all new gene-based technologies with unknown long-term effects in humans. Risk-benefit analyses that are available for traditional vaccines do not exist for the use of Covid vaccines in children.
6. Parents Deserve Full and Clear Answers to the Following Questions before Being Pressured to Vaccinate their Children:
(i) Despite the advocacy and recommendations of several senior physicians in Jamaica for use of Ivermectin as a clearly effective early treatment, why is the government unprepared to go against the guidance of the WHO in relation to Ivermectin, but is now prepared to vaccinate children in the absence of any supportive WHO recommendation and further to link vaccination to preferential access to educational services?
(ii) Where is the evidence that children are at specifically higher risk of transmitting the Delta variant or being affected by it, whether by hospitalisation or death, to justify this rush to vaccinate children even ahead of our obviously vulnerable and unvaccinated groups?
(iii) Where is the evidence that the Pfizer vaccine will prevent transmission in children, since it doesn’t in adults?
(iv) Will the Government accept liability for any vaccine injuries to children whose parents choose vaccination?
(v) Whether Jamaica is the first country in the world to mandate vaccines for children 12 and older?