Adam Finn

Covid Vaccines for Children Would Not Be Approved before Full Investigation in Normal Times, Says Government Advisor

These – undoubtedly – aren’t normal times. If they were, the Covid vaccine would not have been approved for healthy children until it had been fully investigated, says Professor Adam Finn. He adds that parents are justified in waiting until more is understood about the risks of vaccinating children before getting their teenagers ‘jabbed’. The Times has the story.

Professor Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, says that in normal times, the vaccine would not have been recommended for widespread use in children until the long-term consequences of rare side effects had been fully investigated.

Parents are justified in waiting until the risks are clearer before getting their teenagers vaccinated and the NHS needs to spell out the uncertainty over long-term effects better, he argues on this page.

He fears that if some children eventually suffer lifelong health risks without being told of known concerns, trust in other vaccination programmes and wider Government health advice will be undermined. …

Given the huge uncertainty over the extent of the risks, Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol, is concerned that parents and children have not fully understood the concerns that gave the JCVI pause and led to months of agonising over whether children should be offered the jab.

Finn insists that doctors need to be transparent about the “extremely uncommon” risks. He says that expert disagreement over possible side effects “cannot be an argument to downplay important information or to present the evidence as clearly pointing only in one direction when it doesn’t”.

An NHS leaflet to be given to children says only that “most people [suffering heart inflammation] recovered and felt better following rest and simple treatments”.

Writing with Guido Pieles, the consultant cardiologist who advised the JCVI, Finn explains that U.S. cardiologists are seeing signs of scarring in the hearts of otherwise healthy teenagers who suffer rare post-vaccine inflammation.

While they say that it is “perfectly possible that these changes will resolve completely over time”, they warn that such scarring is known to carry a risk of “life-threatening arrhythmias or sudden cardiac arrest”.

As coronavirus vaccines are so new, it is not yet known if the same serious long-term dangers will result. However Finn and Pieles said that “in normal times a rare, new and poorly understood process of this kind would be painstakingly studied over a longer period before any decisions were made”.

Given the pandemic, they acknowledge that many believe “we currently don’t have the luxury of time for more evidence”, making it much harder to issue authoritative advice.

Finn and Pieles suggest that parents consider waiting six months or so until the longer-term consequences of heart changes start to become clear, saying: “This is not a decision that needs to be rushed, and choosing to wait for more evidence is perfectly legitimate.”

Worth reading in full.

The Push for Vaccination of Children and Vaccine Boosters Despite the Lack of Evidence They Prevent Infection or Transmission is Approaching a Religious Mania

As the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) gives the go-ahead for third-jab boosters for the most vulnerable, political pressure is mounting on it also to approve a wider rollout of boosters as well as inoculations for 12-15 year-olds.

Asked if the JCVI should get a “wiggle on” about decisions on boosters and jabs for children, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told Sky News: “Speaking as a parent myself, I think parents would find it incredibly reassuring to know that they had a choice as to whether their child would be vaccinated or not.”

Former Health Secretary and current Chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee Jeremy Hunt tweeted: “The latest study from King’s College London showed vaccine effectiveness dropping after six months, so why are we hanging around?”

Is it really appropriate for ministers and MPs to be putting pressure on a Government advisory body to give the answers they want to hear? How is that following ‘the Science’?

For its part, the JCVI has indicated that it wants to wait for more evidence, and also appears to have a split of opinion among its members. However, the Government may have successfully forced the issue, with the Guardian reporting that the committee held a long discussion on children’s vaccination on Thursday, followed by a vote, and that a decision may be announced as soon as Friday.

Previously, JCVI Chairman, Professor Anthony Harnden, had said he thought it “highly likely” there will be a booster programme, with decisions “over the next few weeks”. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there are questions about which variant to target with the boosters, and identifying who really needs one.

What we don’t want to do is boost people and then find we have a new variant and we can’t boost them again because we’ve boosted them too soon – and those people might not have needed the booster in the first place. So there’s a lot of very complicated modelling and data analysis that is going on about this at the moment.

JCVI member Professor Adam Finn is clear that the “main objective” of vaccination should be to protect against serious illness, and that the evidence of waning immunity against infection is something to monitor not an urgent call to action.

I think the ZOE study, and a couple of other studies we recently had, do show the beginnings of a drop off of protection against asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic disease. But other studies are showing maintenance of good protection against serious illness and hospitalisation.

In May he told the Today programme that children should not be immunised if at all possible as a matter of principle.

In normal times, just as in pandemic times, we simply wouldn’t want to immunise anybody without needing to. It’s an invasive thing to do, it costs money, and it causes a certain amount of discomfort, and vaccines have side effects. So if we can control this virus without immunising children we shouldn’t immunise children as a matter of principle.

We Shouldn’t Vaccinate Children as a Matter of Principle Because of the Side Effects, Says Government Vaccine Adviser

Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Bristol and a member of the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), was on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning (around the 50 minute mark) taking a surprisingly strong line against vaccinating children because of the “side effects”. Here’s an edited transcript of what he said:

The main priority at the moment is to try and immunise as many people as possible who are at risk of getting really sick with this virus, because that’s the one thing we want avoid is another big surge of hospitalisations and deaths, and that isn’t going to happen in children. … Children are very rarely seriously affected by this infection. …

The evidence we’ve got with children, particularly young children, is that they are not very infectious to each other or to adults around them and that the majority of the transmission of the infection is in the adult population in fact. …

There is a certain amount of transmission going in secondary schools, so in teenagers, but in fact we’ve been surprised about how little transmission we’ve picked up in schools and of course this time around there’s been a lot more testing and awareness of what’s going in schools. …

In normal times, just as in pandemic times, we simply wouldn’t want to immunise anybody without needing to. It’s an invasive thing to do, it costs money, and it causes a certain amount of discomfort, and vaccines have side effects. So if we can control this virus without immunising children we shouldn’t immunise children as a matter of principle. …

I’m optimistic that we in particular in the U.K., with the high coverage we’re achieving and the extremely effective vaccine we’ve got, that we can achieve population immunity and I’m afraid it’s an open question as to whether we need to immunise any children at all and if we do how many children we need to immunise.

This is quite a change of tune for Professor Finn, who last month told BBC Breakfast that children had been “left behind” in vaccination and vaccine trials, saying: “We’re impatient now to get on and do the necessary trials in children so that these vaccines can start to be used, and actually circumstances are holding us back so it’s a very frustrating situation to be in.”

He did add, though, that side-effects appeared to be worse in younger people: “There is evidence for more or less all of the vaccines against Covid that the side-effect rate, the reactogenicity that we see, basically goes up the younger you are.”

At the time of these earlier comments the AstraZeneca trials in children were paused while the MHRA investigated blood clot links. What has Professor Finn seen since then that persuaded him that maybe vaccinating children isn’t so pressing after all? Is this a sign that the side-effects, at least in the young, are beginning to be taken seriously by the Government?