An ethical analysis of vaccinating children against COVID-19: benefits, risks, and issues of global health equity [version 2; peer review: 1 approved, 1 approved with reservations]

Wellcome Open Research (forthcoming)
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Abstract

COVID-19 vaccination of children has begun in various high-income countries with regulatory approval and general public support, but largely without careful ethical consideration. This trend is expected to extend to other COVID-19 vaccines and lower ages as clinical trials progress. This paper provides an ethical analysis of COVID-19 vaccination of healthy children. Specifically, we argue that it is currently unclear whether routine COVID-19 vaccination of healthy children is ethically justified in most contexts, given the minimal direct benefit that COVID-19 vaccination provides to children, the potential for rare risks to outweigh these benefits and undermine vaccine confidence, and substantial evidence that COVID-19 vaccination confers adequate protection to risk groups, such as older adults, without the need to vaccinate healthy children. We conclude that child COVID-19 vaccination in wealthy communities before adults in poor communities worldwide is ethically unacceptable and consider how policy deliberations might evolve in light of future developments.

Author's Profile

Steven R. Kraaijeveld
Wageningen University and Research

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