While the South Africa Health Products Authority (Sahpra) approved Pfizer’s Covid vaccine for use by children aged 12 and older, the department of health said they were looking into opening up the vaccine roll-out to teenagers.
According to the acting director-general in the national health department Dr Nicholas Crisp, as seen with the delta variant in the third wave, children between the ages of 12 and 18 were vulnerable and affected more than with the previous waves.
“We clearly don’t know what will happen in the fourth wave, but we do know that it is coming and it will be important to protect children,” he said.
“However we do need to give a chance for all the population to have greater numbers vaccinated and when we introduce it for the children, we must make sure that we have enough vaccines in the country and that we are clear on the protocols.”
Meanwhile, many countries have started vaccinating teens. Since June, there were 9 918 hospital admissions associated with Covid among individuals aged 19 years and younger, with more than 400 deaths.
According to data released by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), among the deaths, 146 (36.4%) were adolescents aged 15 to 19 years and 125 (31.2%) were aged under one year.
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More than 272 000 children between the ages of 12 and 20 in SA tested positive for Covid as of yesterday, according to the NICD.
As of 2 September, more than five million children tested positive for Covid since the onset of the pandemic and at least 252 000 cases were added in the past week, the largest number of child cases in a week since the pandemic began.
“After declining in early summer, child cases have increased, with over 750 000 cases added between 5 August and 2 September,” said the American Academy of Paediatrics’ Children and Covid: State-Level Data report.
“The age distribution of reported Covid cases was provided on the health department websites of 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
“Since the pandemic began, children represented 15.1% of total cumulated cases.
For the week ending 2 September, children were 26.8% of reported weekly Covid cases.”
Epidemiologist Dr Jo Barnes said all people ran the risk of contracting Covid, including teenage children, and while children tended to get less serious symptoms or no symptoms at all, vaccinations will protect them from serious disease, particularly the vulnerable among them.
“Children are regarded as a somewhat lower risk category and that is why they are scheduled to receive the vaccine only after 70% of adults have been vaccinated,” she said.
“There are just under 15 million doses administered (about 18% of the population) in SA so we are very far awayfrom that goal.”
“I doubt that we can reach 70% of vaccinated adults before November/December, let alone alsofit in a significant proportion of the child population.
“So it is highly unlikely that we will be able to protect our children by vaccination before that date,” she added.
“That is why it is of crucial importance that we don’t relax measures such as mask-wearing, handwashing and keeping a safe distance.”
Crisp said the older people get, the more vulnerable they are to getting seriously ill, and the highest risk population is the one they really need to get to now.
“We still need to get to another 30% in some provinces and 40% in others which are people over 60. That’s the primary target to get all the people who are most vulnerable vaccinated, there’s no question about that,” Crisp told Newzroom Afrika.
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