During the Department of Health’s weekly Covid-19 vaccination briefing on Friday, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla confirmed children aged 12 to 17 can get ready to receive their vaccines.
Phaahla said vaccinations would begin on 20 October. In the meantime, the department is preparing the electronic vaccination data system (EVDS), as well as working on logistical preparations.
The date was carefully chosen due to final examinations starting soon. This is also meant to be especially helpful for matriculants, who are encouraged to register on the EVDS.
What vaccine will be used?
The estimated six million 12-to-17 year olds in this age group will receive one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, as per the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority’s (Sahpra’s) approval.
This is due to the Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee’s (MAC’s) monitoring of the rare side effect of transient myocarditis in younger vaccine recipients after they receive their second dose.
This affliction results in a slight inflammation of the heart muscle. Phaahla assured, however, that the first dose of Pfizer does not have any serious side effects, and would still offer “significant protection”.
“I can assure parents and the youth that even where this has been noticed, there there has been no permanent risk”.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the rarity of myocarditis in children and teenagers, with rates so low that recommendations for this age group to receive the vaccine have not been changed.
The CDC also emphasised that the risks associated with children and teenagers contracting Covid-19 far outweighed the potential, and rare, risks and side effects associated with the Covid-19 vaccine.
He said once more information came to light, a second dose would be administer to this age group.
Acting health department director-general Dr Nicholas Crisp said the aim was to vaccinate at least half of the 12-to-17 year old age group before exams and school holidays.
Do kids need their parents’ consent?
Children and teens can receive their vaccines at their nearest public or private vaccination facilities.
Vaccines will currently not be administered at schools, with Crisp explaining that this is due to the agreements needed among parties concerned, such as the Department of Basic Education, school governing bodies and the health department, in terms of how consent would be given for vaccines in a school health programme setting.
According to the Children’s Act, people aged 12 to 17 do not need their parents’ consent for any medical treatment.
This accounts for the Covid-19 vaccine as well, which essentially means even if a child’s parents are anti-vaxxers, or do not want their child to get the jab, that child can still visit a vaccination facility and get their Pfizer dose.