Schools are being threatened with legal action and told they could face fines of up to £20 million or “life imprisonment” by campaign groups opposing on-site Covid jabs for pupils.
The UK’s four chief medical officers (CMOs) today recommended to the government that children aged between 12 and 15 should be offered a Covid vaccine.
But unions have warned that unless the government confirms the processes surrounding vaccinations, “school leaders will be put in an impossible position of facing questions to which they simply do not have the answers”.
Schools are already being targeted by pressure groups attempting to halt involvement.
‘School leaders are being put in an invidious position while simply working to carry out their national duty’
In a letter sent to schools by Lawyers for Liberty, seen by Schools Week, leaders are informed they are “positively promoting and encouraging the Covid-19 vaccination … without parental consent, parent consultation, a health and safety assessment or a full risk analysis.”
While prefacing that “this is not a legal letter, nor . . . legal advice”, the letter demands a “full and proper prior consultation”, explicit written consent from adults with parental responsibility and a full risk benefit analysis.
It warns: “In the absence of you completing the actions above, if a pupil suffers harm, injury or loss as a direct result of the vaccination, you will attract claims arising from a breach of duty of care to your pupils”.
The letter claims punishment includes “financial sanctions between £180,000 to £20 million” or “in some instances, criminal culpability … which, if convicted, can not only have serious adverse effects upon your career but may also attract prison sentences ranging from 3 years to life imprisonment.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said the letters are “misguided – it is not school leaders’ decision to make, it is the government’s and the NHS.”
“School leaders are being put in an invidious position, stuck between parents, pupils and pressure groups, all while simply working to carry out their national duty,” he added.
Schools minister Nick Gibb confirmed last week that vaccines would be administered in schools through the School Age Immunisation Service if they get the go ahead.
The government has yet to respond to the chief medical officers’ statement, published earlier today.
Whiteman said he expects detailed guidance to be published “without delay” once a decision is made.
“It is essential that the government immediately confirms that the process surrounding vaccinations will be run and overseen entirely by the appropriate medical teams … otherwise school leaders will be put in an impossible position of facing questions to which they simply do not have the answers.”
Another letter sent to schools, from ‘a concerned group of parents’, warns education leaders: “This is unlike any other vaccine that has ever been offered in schools. It is a clinical medical trial”.
As such, it states the email is “a Notice of Liability setting out your personal responsibilities and liabilities for conducting experimental medical trials on school grounds… Receipt of this email shows you have been made aware that death or other serious injuries are possible outcomes … and you are accepting responsibility for any injuries/deaths that result from said experimental vaccinations”.
Furthermore, it claims schools and staff “involved in the process of administration of covid-19 vaccinations renders themselves liable to criminal prosecution for assault/wounding.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said many of its members had received similar letters.
“This is extremely unhelpful and we would ask those involved in this correspondence to stop attempting to exert pressure on schools and colleges”, he added.
In a joint letter, the CMOs stated that vaccination “should only be seen as an adjunct to other actions to maintain children and young people in secondary school and minimise further education disruption and therefore medium- and longer-term public health harm.”
They advised children should be offered one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) will give its view on whether to offer a second dose after more data has been accrued internationally.
A second dose would not be administered before the Spring term.
Schools Week understands the DfE cannot respond to queries surrounding the vaccine until a formal response is made to the CMOs.
However, CMOs said while full school closures are “much less likely” now, they expect the epidemic to be “prolonged and unpredictable. Local surges of infection, including in schools, should be anticipated for some time. Where they occur, they are likely to be disruptive.”