After the government announcement opening vaccination to adolescents, the CCNE deplored on June 9 the speed of the decision which poses many ethical problems. According to the CCNE, this measure would risk stigmatizing young people aged 12 to 18.
The National Ethics Committee (CCNE) regretted on June 9 “that the decisions” concerning the vaccination of adolescents against Covid-19 “were taken so quickly”, in a context of the decline of the epidemic.
“Is there an absolute urgency to start vaccination now, when several indicators are green and the start of the September school year could mark the start of the campaign?” Asks the advisory body in the press release accompanying its opinion on the matter. The government announced on June 2 that young people between the ages of 12 and 18 could be vaccinated from June 15.
In its opinion, CCNE considers that while the individual benefit derived from vaccination is “limited for physical health” (severe forms of infection being very rare in children under 18), “the consequences of the pandemic on the psychological and mental health of children, and especially adolescents, is deep and probably lasting ”.
He adds that it is “unlikely” that the objective of collective immunity, which requires vaccination of 80% to 85% of the population, “can be achieved by vaccination of adults alone.”
Vaccinate adolescents to compensate for the reluctance of adults?
But “is it ethical to make minors bear the responsibility, in terms of collective benefit, for the refusal of vaccination (or the difficulty of accessing it) for a part of the adult population?” he does.
The committee also raises the question of the “risk of stigmatization for adolescents who do not wish to have recourse to it”, and that of “breaking their confidence if the return to normal life” promised in exchange for the vaccination “was compromised by the ‘arrival of new variants’ of the coronavirus.
It also recommends “a specific pharmacovigilance follow-up” of side effects, in view of the small follow-up on the “safety of these new vaccines in adolescents”.
As for the question of consent to the vaccine, if parental consent is necessary, “the public health code insists on the obligation to also take into account the consent of the minor”, recalls the CCNE.
In its opinion delivered on June 3, the High Authority for Health (HAS) also highlights the issue of collective immunity and the “indirect” individual benefit of adolescents to be vaccinated, however recommending that the vaccination of adults or “sufficiently advanced” before generalizing it to the youngest.
Only Pfizer / BioNtech vaccine can currently be used in adolescents. Authorized in the European Union from the age of 16, he saw this authorization extended to 12-15 years by the European Medicines Agency on May 28.
The European regulator also began on June 8 to examine the request for authorization among 12-17 year olds for the Covid vaccine from the American biotech Moderna, for the moment reserved for those over 18 years old.