Renate Engelbrecht
Content producer
3 minute read
22 Sep 2021
9:35 am

Children’s Covid-19 vaccine trial: What you need to know

Renate Engelbrecht

The recent launch of Sinovac’s vaccine trial for children has elicited mixed emotions among South Africans. Here is what we know.

Picture: iStock

Like with many things Covid-related, South Africans have mixed reactions with regards to the launch of the country’s children’s vaccine trial that kicked off on Friday.

“Brilliant. What great strides we’re taking! I welcome this. The more vaccinated, the better, and sooner we’re out this mess,” one Twitter user stated, while another said: “Which sick parents are volunteering their children for this nonsense?”

Here is what we know about Sinovac’s CoronaVac children’s trial:

Who’s taking part in the trial?

South Africa is one of five countries taking part in a global Covid-19 children’s vaccination trial, with children aged between 6 months and 17 years enrolled to take the jab. The first two teenagers of the trial were vaccinated at the Sefako Makgatho Health Science University in Tshwane on Friday, 10 September.

The countries taking part in the trial include South Africa, Kenya, Indonesia, Malaysia and Chile – all developing countries – with 14,000 children in total taking part in the trial globally.

Which vaccine will the children be getting?

The clinical trial is being rolled out by Sinovac’s local partner, a Tshwane-based company called the Numolux Group and a 1,000 of the South African children will be receiving Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine, where the other 1,000 will receive a placebo.

As with all vaccines that have been approved for emergency use, the Sinovac CoronaVac vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe disease and hospitalisation due to Covid-19.

How will the children’s vaccination trial work?

Children in the trial will receive two jabs, 28 days apart, and they will be monitored for 12 months from the second jab.

ALSO READ: SAHPRA approves Pfizer vaccine for kids above 12 years old

A brave teenager getting the jab
A brave teenager getting the jab. Picture: iStock

What do the experts say?

According to Dr Glenda Gray, the South African Medical Research Council’s president who is also a paediatrician, children have been ignored in the research process when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccines and she is very excited about the trial.

She is backing the trial 100% and urging the country to follow suit.

“Delaying the inclusion of children in the Covid vaccine trials delays our ability to contain Covid-19,” she said.

This also comes as South Africans are being encouraged to get their jabs before the December holidays.

Still, the trial’s age group is not necessarily the group of concern, as older people and people with comorbidities are at a higher risk when it comes to the coronavirus and its effects. Many also say that countries should not hasten the process of getting children vaccinated, especially if they struggle to keep up with vaccine supplies for higher-risk groups.

In an interview with SABC News, Dr Aslam Dasoo from the Progressive Health Forum saidthe important thing in the emergency phase of a pandemic – which is what we currently find ourselves in – is to find vaccines that prevent deaths, illness and the overloading of our health systems.

How safe is it?

A study that was published in The Lancet said CoronaVac was “well tolerated and safe and induced humoral responses in children aged between 3 and 17″.

Project director, Dr Sanet Aspinall, addressed reporters at the launch of the children’s vaccine trial on Friday, highlighting the fact that even though less severe disease is seen in children, they are still susceptible, which enables them to spread the virus to others.

She assured everyone in attendance of the safety of the Chinese vaccine.   

The Sinovac vaccine has been approved by roughly 50 countries globally for administration to adults and China has cleared it for use in minors. It has, therefore, undergone all the research trials required. The Sinovac vaccine has been tested in phase-three trials in adults and has also received emergency use approval in South Africa.

What is the common side effects?

The CoronaVac vaccine’s side effects in adults includes:

  • Injection site pain
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle pain

Which other vaccines can children get?

The Pfizer vaccine has also been approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) for administration in children aged 12 and older.