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#PoeticLicence: Kids not needing their parent’s consent to get Covid-19 vaccine has tugged at the parental autonomy strings

Writer and poet Rabbie Serumula. File image.

Writer and poet Rabbie Serumula. File image.

Published Oct 24, 2021


Johannesburg - Children over the age of 12 years could consent, since 2005, to their own medical treatment or that of their children, as provided by the Children’s Act 38 of that year.

This, however, is provided that the child is of sufficient maturity and has the mental capacity to understand the benefits, risks, social and other implications of the treatment.

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Your teenager could hand you a vaccination card after they had felt feverish and decided to nip the flu in the bud with a shot. Or it could be a Covid-19 vaccine certificate.

There is no antagonising from the government. At least not since 2005.

It is our parental autonomy that was bruised; the principle that parents have a fundamental right to raise their children and to make all decisions concerning them, free from governmental intervention. This is why it hurt, for those it did. It hurt because the government told us that our kids can make, what we call “adult decisions”, without our consent.

It aches because we know that our parental autonomy to refuse vaccination should be respected unless the child is considered to be at significant risk from that refusal.

That refusal can be subliminal. It can be that voice in your head that says, “deciding to take the vaccine is an adult decision.” Then you start liking it when deciding to vote, in how you choose the governing of your municipality, or the country. Whether it is run down, or deeper into a hypothetical utopia that looks like our townships, the filth in our CBDs, the dilapidating landscape.

But we are panicked, we feel pressured yet we are misinformed. And therefore, right now, “only adults should be making life and death decisions,” not 12 to 17-year-olds.

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There was no problem when the Health Minister announced that children 12 to 17 years old will be eligible to receive one dose of Pfizer vaccine. It was when the department released a statement, and in it, stating that these children do not need their parents’ concert. That is what tugged at the parental autonomy strings.

When you read up on vaccination and ethical issues, you get a glimpse of the scepticism and reluctance based on ethics for anti-vaxxers.

In the development of an early vaccine for smallpox, it was tested on six prisoners who were promised pardons if they survived. After this test was successful and the prisoners were released, the smallpox vaccine was trialled on five children in an orphanage. When they survived the test, children belonging to the royal family were immunised.

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Meanwhile, women and young girls aged 12 years and older, should be encouraged to vaccinate during any stage of their pregnancy and breastfeeding, the department of health said in the statement.

Reading this hurts because we would rather our 12 to 17-year-olds not be pregnant. But they are. We would rather they were immune to Covid-19. But they are not.

Many parents refused to have their children vaccinated for smallpox too. One of these parents was Benjamin Franklin. To his eternal regret, lost his son to smallpox.

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