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.

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