“We have reached the stage where we are ready to open up vaccination for children between the age of 12 and 17,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Friday. The Pfizer vaccine, which has been approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, will be administered to the age group. But the children and teenagers will only receive one dose at this stage, unlike adults who have been receiving two doses over a period.
“The Ministerial Vaccine Advisory Committee advised that for now we should only give one dose of Pfizer while assessing information which suggests that in few cases all over the world, there have been some short-lived cases of transient myocarditis after the second dose. “This rare finding of this adverse effect is a slight inflammation on the heart muscle which has been noticed in a few cases. While this is being monitored all over the world, at this stage there is no indication that this first dose has any serious side effects, so for now it will be just one dose while the studies are continuing, which we believe will still offer significant protection,” Phaahla said. The minister said that once the information emerging had been reviewed, a second dose would be considered. “But we can assure the parents and the young people that even where this has been noticed, it has had no permanent risk. So, we are just taking precautions in this case,” he added. Phaahla said the vaccines would not be made available at schools for now though he believed that there would be benefit to those who are on the cusp of starting their end-of-year examinations.
''We believe that this will be handy as the schools start their examinations - some of them are already advanced towards concluding their academic year and are starting to prepare for the next academic year of 2022,” the minister said. Children would not necessarily have to get their parents’’ consent to be vaccinated, according to Acting Director General of the Department of Health, Nicholas Crisp. “The Children’s’ Act makes provision for children from the age of 12 to 17, who are not yet adults, to give their own consents for medical treatments and there are provisions within the sub-clauses of the Act which explain which children can give consent for what,” Crisp said. “Children do not need their parents’ consent generally for any medical treatment and there are specific guidelines on that. Parents can give consent for their children to get vaccinated, (but it is also) possible for a child between the age of 12 and 17 to go to a vaccination centre without their parents’ consent,” Crisp said.