A doctor at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital, who resigned this week in response to 12-15 year olds being vaccinated, told Express he was threatened with disciplinary action for “just asking a few questions.”
Dr Scott Mitchell made headlines this week after resigning from the Emergency Department of the PEH. He took issue with Public Health’s decision to follow the UK and other Crown Dependencies in offering a covid vaccine to 12 to 15-year-olds.
“I think at the moment we should hold off vaccinating healthy 12 to 15-year-olds,” said Dr Mitchell.
“Everything in medicine is based off a risk benefit analysis; is this treatment you’re going to give a patient in their best interests, i.e. do the benefits of that treatment outweigh the risks.
“The risk of serious covid and hospitalisation in the 12-15 group is almost negligible and the risk/benefit is weighted more towards the risk,” he argued.
“If they are proven to be safe, I’ll be all for it, but I think we should be more conscious about it.”
Pictured: The Director of Public Health, Dr Nicola Brink, announced younger cohort vaccination during the latest media briefing.
Dr Mitchell’s issue with Health and Social Care’s plans revolve around a perceived divergence from guidelines issued by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Public Health has consistently advised on regulations in line with guidance generated from the JCVI. The most recent being that vaccinating a younger cohort did provide an overall advantage, but did not meet their usual threshold for recommending population based vaccination.
The JCVI therefore does not ‘oppose’ vaccinating 12 to 15 year olds, but does not advise that the benefit outweighs the risk.
However, it has been argued that avoiding disrupting a child’s education, coupled with a green light from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), are reason enough to offer the vaccine to young people in the island and the Civil Contingencies Authority, when asked, has announced an intention to do so.
Despite this, Dr Mitchell said we simply do not know the lasting effects of the vaccine on the general population, let alone children.
“We have no long-term safety data; in terms of widespread use, we’ve only got 9 months of data.
“We’re at something like 1,600 associated deaths with these vaccines – relative to any other vaccine these numbers are quite high,” he said.
Pictured: Dr Mitchell came to Guernsey from Scotland to work in the Emergency Department of the PEH.
Dr Mitchell has also taken issue with how Public Health and HSC came to its decision.
“That’s another peculiarity – Guernsey has the usual vaccine committee, which discusses decisions around vaccines. I’m in contact with one member of that group, and they haven’t been invited to any panels to discuss covid vaccines, which I find highly peculiar.
“I understand that there was a panel to discuss whether they were going to go against the JCVI advice but I don’t know who exactly was on that panel, and certainly this person who sits on the normal committee was not invited,” he said.
“I often feel that decision are being made elsewhere and we should be listening to all of our doctors and not just a few.”
Following his resignation, Dr Mitchell now faces the prospect of having to leave the island after five years working at the PEH. It’s something that he laments but said is an inevitable repercussion of doing what was “morally right”.
He said other colleagues feel the same way: “I only know of a handful,” he said.
“People are afraid to speak out; just today I got an email from the Medical Director threatening disciplinary action just for sending an email of my concerns to the law officers, Dr Brink, and States’ members, because I was using my states email account.
“It feels rather tyrannical here at the moment, facing disciplinary action for just asking a few questions. I couldn’t quite believe it.”
Pictured: The younger cohort will be offered a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
When asked for a response Express was told the States won’t comment on individual employment matters.
HSC continues to emphasis that the vaccine is voluntary, and all young people invited for one will received supplementary information so they can discuss the offer with their parents.
“We want to support the discussions that will take place between many parents and their children about whether they wish to take up the vaccine offer,” said the President of HSC, Deputy Al Brouard.
“This is very important as we want to support the decision-making process for children, young people and their parents in an open and transparent manner.”
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