Experts and parents have weighed in on the National Health Department’s decision to start vaccinating children aged between 12 and 17 with a single dose of of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as from today, evoking a mixed bag of reactions.
The Department of Health is hoping that half of the 6.5 million children falling in this cohort – 3.25 million – will be jabbed by mid-January 2022 as they start their academic years either at school or university.
Currently, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is the only jab that has been approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) for use in children 12 years and older. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Pfizer vaccine is 93% effective against hospitalisation in 12 to 18-year-olds.
Older people need to be prioritised
But the decision to administer the single Pfizer dose has raised quite a few eyebrows across the board.
Shabir Madhi, a vaccinology professor at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), expressed his ambivalence and said it is not going to help much when this age group gets vaccinated.
“I am ambivalent about kids getting vaccinated. We still need to put our efforts into getting the right groups vaccinated and that is those above 50 years of age and those who are 35 years and older who have underlying medical conditions,” said Madhi.
In a recent tweet he said the decision to vaccinate children with a single Pfizer dose was strange and would have a limited public health benefit. He said it would only benefit high risk people.
Parents react to decision
Parents have also expressed their views, some for and some against.
Heather Weather has no qualms if her children choose to be vaccinated.
”I am all for it. The benefits outweigh the risks and the risks of heart enlargement are more harmful from getting a virus anyway. If they want to be vaccinated, I will take them,” said Weather.
Another mother, Simone Heradien, questioned why she would vaccinate her children if someone of Madhi’s stature had his doubts.
”I won’t have them vaccinated if a top virologist finds it weird and puzzling,” said Heradien.
Brenda Wardle, an anti-vaxxer said she wouldn’t encourage her children nor stop them.
”But I would educate them about the pros and cons and that they have a right to say ‘no’. So, while they don’t need my consent, the government needs their consent,” she said.
This issue of encouraging 12 to 17 year olds to vaccinate without parental consent in SADC region especially in South Africa is a satanic act.— Letuka Molati (@LetukaMolati) October 20, 2021
Zola Dlamini, who is not a parent, said government should stop interfering in people’s lives. Dlamini said he is also against vaccinations and has more faith in traditional African medicine.
”When I get ill, I don’t take injections. I use traditional medication which I have been using for a very long time. On this one, (allowing children to vaccinate without parental consent), the government has now gone too far. Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma and the rest of their so-called National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) have crossed the line,” said Dlamini who claims to have never received any type of vaccination.
‘Children have the right to decide’
Wits Professor Haroon Saloojee said children have a right to be vaccinated.
”We welcome the government’s decision. Children have a right to decide what is right for them. This is a global phenomenon. South Africa has acquired enough vaccines and I think the health department has made the correct decision to extend this right to children,” said Saloojee.
The Children’s Act permits children – between the ages of 12 -17 – access to medical treatment without parental consent. – Health-e News