Pretoria - While the ACDP and other organisations will attempt to interdict the government next month from the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines for 12 to 17-year-olds, Section27, which has joined the proceedings, is questioning the motives behind the application.
The ACDP and organisations such as Free the Children – Save the Nation and the Covid Care Alliance will ask the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on April 28 for an interim interdict against child vaccinations.
This is pending the outcome of an internal appeal before the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (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.
But Section27, which has been admitted as a friend of the court, said it would stand by the government in this argument.
The public law centre has filed its heads of argument in the case this week, in which they also question the applicant’s standing for a concurrent appeal to Sahpra surrounding the use of Pfizer vaccines for teenagers.
“We are concerned that the ACDP and their partners are not genuinely acting on behalf of the best interests of children whom they claim to speak for, but are instead motivated by making the roll-out of vaccines to teenagers a divisive ‘wedge issue’ aimed at attracting a conservative constituency,” Julia Chaskalson of Section27 said.
It will be argued on behalf of the organisation that now that schools have reopened fully, it is crucial that the adolescent vaccination programme be permitted to continue so that learners in overcrowded classrooms are protected from the worst effects of Covid-19.
“Together with other non-pharmaceutical interventions like ventilation and the wearing of masks, vaccines are crucial to keeping young people safe from Covid-19 outbreaks while at school, and any campaign to stop the roll-out of vaccines to children puts them – and their human rights – at risk,” Chaskalson said.
She added that vaccination of adolescents for whom it is medically safe to do so must be allowed to continue as a measure to prevent school closures or rotational timetables in future, which she said have been shown to have disastrous effects on learners’ educational outcomes and mental health.
“Statistics show that girls are more likely to have been vaccinated against Covid-19 than their male counterparts, and that the majority of teen vaccinations have happened in the public sector.
“This means that if the ACDP and their recently formed partners (Free the Children – Save the Nation, Caring Healthcare Workers Coalition and Covid Care Alliance) get their way, the impact of their interdict banning vaccination for teenagers would be disproportionately felt by children who are girls, poor, and attending under-resourced and overcrowded public schools.”
Chaskalson said if faced with potential future school closures because of Covid-19 outbreaks, these learners would also suffer most, and inequality in the basic education sector would be perpetuated.
Section27 believes that an interdict suspending the vaccination of adolescents would violate an array of children’s rights.
According to her, the applicants’ case is based on discredited information about vaccination, which the National Department of Health has addressed through expert evidence from Dr Nicholas Crisp and Professor Salim Abdool Karim.
An affidavit by ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe, which was earlier filed at court, stated: ”The ACDP has been inundated with pleas from its constituency to intervene on their behalf and defend their right to choose that they and their children not be forced to take into their bodies any substance, remedy, or medication they do not approve of, fear or do not know the true efficacy or safety of.”
He said that children were being used as a shield to protect adult society, when in fact adult society should be protecting children.