Emergency legal action has been launched in response to the Government announcement that parental consent would not be required to enable Department of Health staff to administer the Covid-19 vaccination to children between the ages of 12 and 15 in Northern Ireland.
Solicitor Stephen Atherton confirmed he has received instructions from the parent of a child within the affected age range and that formal pre-action legal correspondence has now been served on the Department of Health.
He said: “During the past 18 months we have witnessed an unprecedented level of state interference within our private and family lives in the name of public health, and it is undoubtedly the case that our children have suffered extensively due to restrictions imposed by the Executive upon direction from the Department of Health.
“Having for the first time in history disregarded the advices of the independent Joint Committee for Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI), who on 3 September stated they could not support the universal vaccination of otherwise healthy 12-15 year olds due to the absence of long term safety data, the Department of Health are prepared to disregard the wishes of parents in relation to crucial matters potentially affecting the short and long term health and well-being of their children.
“It is quite simply unlawful, unethical and immoral for the Department to direct that a 12 year old would be competent to provide informed consent to this vaccination in circumstances where the UK Government’s own scientific and medical advisors have provided conflicting advice.
“This staggering decision represents a new low for the Stormont Executive and strikes at the very heart of the family unit.”
Mr Atherson added: “Dr Michael McBride and his fellow Chief Medical Officers have indicated the principal reason for conflicting advice they provided to the UK Government was that child vaccination would preserve the mental health of children by assisting in attempts to prevent further educational disruption this winter.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, Dr McBride and his colleagues where the prime movers in providing advice and recommendations to the Executive during the past 18 months, such direction resulting in multiple and prolonged school closures with the inevitable harm associated to children’s emotional well-being.
“It is no secret that referrals to adolescent mental health services in this jurisdiction are currently running at unsustainable levels.
“In addition, the Department compounded these harms by ensuring that children were excluded from the sanctuary of outdoor sporting environments for many months, at a time when they never needed their sport and their teammates more.
“Indeed, the Department has had the temerity to recently argue in court that it would have been ‘perverse’ to allow children the relief of playing outdoor sport at a time when schools were closed.
“Therefore the suggestion that these same individuals have suddenly discovered a genuine concern for the mental health of our children arising from educational disruption is risible and indicative of a public health administration which is completely at sea and has lost its moral compass.”
Concluding Mr Atherton said: “We note with incredulity that these measures were not debated within the Stormont chamber at Stormont and look forward to the forthcoming Judicial scrutiny of these crucial Executive decisions.”