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Court bid to halt Covid-19 vaccinations for children aged 12 to 17 postponed

Olerato Ikaneng,17, receives her Covid-19 vaccine from registered nurse Nomvula Maseko. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Olerato Ikaneng,17, receives her Covid-19 vaccine from registered nurse Nomvula Maseko. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 29, 2022


Pretoria - The application by the ACDP to interdict the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccinations for children between the ages of 12 and 17 was postponed indefinitely yesterday.

This was after the ACDP said it only became aware this week of a document issued by Pfizer regarding the possible risks associated with this Covid-19 vaccine.

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Counsel for the applicants, advocate R Willis, told the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that they only stumbled across this information this week when it was disclosed in a related case heard in Texas in the US.

Willis said he accepted that the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) did not have this information at hand when it had registered this vaccination.

He said Saphra had meanwhile become aware of this report and it even responded to it in March in the public domain. Yet, he said, this was not disclosed to the applicants. According to Willis, this report is groundbreaking for the applicants’ case.

Willis asked Judge Sulet Potterill to file a supplementary affidavit to address these issues. It was only after hours of argument in this regard and after being questioned by the judge as to why he wanted to introduce new evidence on the morning of the trial, to which the other parties still had to answer, that Willis eventually asked for a postponement in the matter to file further written submissions.

Judge Potterill, in granting the postponement following a day’s arguments on these technical issues by the various parties, made it clear that there were rules of the court to which parties had to adhere.

She said it was clear that this application was not ripe for hearing.

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She added that although the application was said to be of national importance, it didn’t mean that the rules of court must be flouted.

The judge said the applicants could not, on the day the trial was supposed to start, ask to file further court papers and make amendments to their papers without giving all the other parties the opportunity to answer.

She, however, said as the matter was urgent, the applicants may approach the deputy judge president to ask for another urgent court date.

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Sahpra issued a media statement last month in which it said that it had noted that a safety report in

relation to the Covid-19 Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine directed to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been distributed on various communication platforms in South Africa.

This vaccine was authorised for use in South Africa by Sahpra in adults and children aged 12 years and older.

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Some adverse effects to the vaccine were mentioned in the report, which the applicants said was decisive for their case.

Sahpra earlier in its media statement said only a few risks were highlighted in the report, and as these vaccines were still new, their safety profiles were evolving and investigations ongoing, hence the need for the continuous monitoring.

It further said that based on the latest periodically reported safety data reviewed by Saphra for Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines, the benefit-risk profile of the vaccine remained favourable and safe to be administered as per the roll-out schedule.

The vaccination roll-out for children aged between 12 and 17 started on October 20 last year, where the teenagers were given a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

The applicants meanwhile asked for an interim order halting the vaccination programme for children, pending the outcome of an internal appeal to Sahpra to completely stop the programme.

The party said that, in effect, the decision of the regulator – granting authorisation for the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 17 – was contrary to the best interests of children.

While arguing yesterday to file further affidavits on the matter, Willis said the applicants would not argue that no children should receive the vaccination.

“They can be vaccinated on the advice of a doctor.”

He said they are, however, against the mass roll-outs of this vaccination at places such as schools, where they are simply lined up to get the vaccination without being informed or consenting to the consequences.

The National Department of Health and Sahpra are opposing the application, and have presented scientific evidence in court papers about what they deem the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for teenagers.

Section27, which has entered the fray as a friend of the court, meanwhile believes that vaccinations must be made more accessible to young people, not suspendeded as the ACDP and their partners hope for.

Pretoria News