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‘Clarity needed’ on plans to roll out the vaccine for children with disabilities

Current guidance says that in exceptional circumstances the COVID-19 vaccine may be used ‘off-label’ or in unlicensed situations for children aged 12-15 – but a new survey shows there is confusion leading to an inconsistent approach over who is getting it.

14/04/21

‘Clarity needed’ on plans to roll out the vaccine for children with disabilities

A charity representing families with disabled children has urged for clarity from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on plans to roll out a vaccine for children and how those at highest risk will be prioritised once it is licensed.

The current guidance says that in some exceptional circumstances the COVID-19 vaccine may be used ‘off-label’ or unlicensed for children aged 12-15.

However a survey conducted by Contact shows there is confusion leading to an inconsistent approach over who is getting the vaccine and when.

The survey of more than 3,000 families who have high-risk, shielding or disabled children about access to the COVID-19 vaccine found that nearly 70% of parents want their disabled children (under 16) to have a vaccine when it has been through trials and is licensed for use by children.

One in ten parents said they would like the vaccine ‘off-licence’ right now, however only 1.5% have been successful in getting the jab for their child so far.

Amanda Batten, Contact’s Chief Executive, said that despite shielding ending on 1 April, many families see their child’s access to a vaccine as their only route out of lockdown.

“Families are exhausted and concerned about their child’s development after being out of school for so long. But they still have grave concerns about their child’s safety, so despite shielding ending on 1 April we know many will stay indoors.

“We have written to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation with our findings, asking for clarity on plans to roll out a vaccine for children and how those at highest risk will be prioritised once it’s licensed. Families are desperate for information.”

Sara Meredith, whose 6-year-old son Daniel has complex medical needs and is registered blind, said they have been shielding for a year and feel like “the forgotten vulnerable”.

“I haven’t hugged my daughters for a year as we are shielding from them too. We’ve had no other carers in so I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. We want to know what the plan is for Daniel and children like him.”

The survey also found that only 58% of disabled young people aged over 16 have been offered a vaccine despite the majority being part of Priority Group 4 or 6.

Nearly 8 in 10 disabled young people (aged over 16) said they will have the vaccine when offered it, with 18% ‘not sure’, while only 3% said they would not have the vaccine when offered.

Amanda Batten added: “While we wait for vaccine approval for children it is essential that all family members in households with disabled children are vaccinated as soon as possible, not just the ‘main’ carer so they are given maximum protection.”

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