August 1, 2021

“The consent of adolescents must be truly informed”

The National Consultative Ethics Committee (CCNE) issued, on Wednesday, June 9, an opinion in favor of the vaccination of adolescents over 12 years old against Covid-19, however accompanied by precautions and reservations. Its conclusion indicates that, for CCNE, “It seems desirable (…) to agree to vaccinate adolescents who request it against Covid-19, but after having received clear information adapted to this age group on the uncertainties related to the disease, to the vaccine itself and to its effectiveness in the medium and long term, as well as on the alternatives opening up to the prevention of the disease ”. Rapporteur of the opinion, Professor Alexandra Benachi, head of the obstetric gynecology department at the Antoine-Béclère hospital in Clamart, details the motivations.

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Minors are already subject to eleven compulsory vaccinations, to which are added some, optional. How did this require an opinion from CCNE?

The context is very different. The eleven pathologies against which we vaccinate are perfectly known, their effects, their risks, including their long-term morbidity, the risks of sequelae; this is not the case with the Covid, we lack perspective. For almost all vaccines, there is an important direct benefit for children in terms of health, mortality or morbidity. Here, children only develop very few serious forms, and the number of deaths is very low. Finally, there are few studies on adolescents – only one – even though this is the first time that an RNA vaccine has been produced. Even though all the studies on adults and the tens of millions of vaccinations performed are very reassuring, it still raises a few questions. In any case, that requires us to be certain that, before injecting them with a vaccine against a disease that affects them very little, they have fully understood what we are doing.

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In this opinion, you agree with the tip of the pen. Why so many reservations?

We cannot mindlessly vaccinate children who have few direct benefits and who risk blaming us for it in the future. One of the reasons they are going to get vaccinated is to take off the mask, continue to play with their friends, go to concerts and hang out freely. This generation has already suffered greatly from this disease and the measures that accompanied it, particularly in terms of mental health. If a new, more severe variant comes along and they need to be re-defined, or if any unexpected side effects are discovered, they’ll say they’ve been lied to. We will then have a total loss of confidence in the institutions. The United States, Canada, Italy are vaccinating their teens en masse. We believe that we should not rush because it is not the urgency of the moment. There are still more than 20% of French adults who do not want to be vaccinated. If all adults were vaccinated, we wouldn’t need to vaccinate our young people. So let’s start with that.

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