Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown raises concerns that the vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds offers very little benefit to the child, and there is a lack of long-term data on the potential harm. He is also concerned about the setting of a precedent on parental consent and the impact on the Gillick competency test for medical procedures in the future.
I have great respect for my hon. Friend as the vaccines Minister, but I find what he has announced this evening deeply troubling. I think it will pit parents against parents and parents against teachers, with a poor child stuck in the middle wondering what to do. There will be very little benefit to the child, and there is a lack of long-term data on the potential harm. However, what concerns me above all is that the Gillick doctrine of treating children without parental consent will become the norm for a range of medical procedures.
Let me, again, slightly push back on that. It is not teachers who are being asked to do this; it is our clinicians, who are well trained and incredibly capable because they do the same thing year in, year out for the purpose of school-age vaccination programmes. They will be offering the vaccines, and ensuring that parents have enough time to read the information and then give their consent before a vaccination takes place.
This is very much not about a situation involving division. I think—I hope—my hon. Friend agrees that throughout the vaccine deployment programme that we began in earnest back on 8 December last year with Pfizer-BioNTech and continued on 4 January with the AstraZeneca vaccine, we have endeavoured never to stigmatise anyone and to provide as much information and transparency as possible, which has led to the highest level of vaccine positivity in the world. I believe that according to the Office for National Statistics data on vaccine positivity in the UK, more than 90% of adults have said that they are very likely to take the vaccine, or have already taken it.