DURBAN - CHILDREN aged 12 years and older are now eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine.
The South African Product Health Regulatory Authority (Saphra) on Friday approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for the children but experts said the focus should be on the older population rather than children.
At the same time, trials have begun to test the efficacy of Sinovac’s vaccine for the young ones.
Boitumelo Semete, the chief executive of Saphra, said that the Pfizer/ Biontech Covid-19 vaccine had been approved for use in children aged 12 and older.
“This was the result of reviewing updated safety and efficacy information submitted as conditions of Section 21 on March 16. Section 21 of the Medicines Act is a mechanism that enables emergency use access and also enables Sahpra to authorise the use of a medicine.”
Last month 9-year-old Shanika Balsarang, a Grade 4 pupil at Acaciavale Primary in Ladysmith, died only three days after she fell ill with Covid-19 symptoms.
Shanika’s father, Sajel, yesterday said while he did not know much about vaccines, he knew if there was one safe for children he would have wanted it for his daughter.
“We have to take it day by day. She was our only child and the pain of knowing she is not here or we won’t be able to make new memories is tough.”
Anna Christina Sick-samuels and Allison Messina from the research institute Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US, encouraged parents to vaccinate their children.
“Vaccines helped prevent kids from getting Covid-19. Although Covid-19 in children was sometimes milder than in adults, some kids could get severe lung infections, become very sick and require hospitalisation. The virus can cause death in children, although this is rarer than for adults. The vaccine helps prevent or reduce the spread of Covid19. Getting vaccinated can help stop other variants from emerging. Vaccines help protect the community,” they said.
Professor Shabir Madhi said the country’s primary goal should be to minimise severe disease and the number of people who died from Covid-19.
“The focus should be vaccinating 85%-90% of people above the age of 35 and certainly above the age of 55 before the end of October. In doing so we would be able to ensure that we won’t need further restrictions as our health system would be protected as we won’t have large numbers of hospitalisation. The current vaccination of children is not likely to achieve this goal,” he said.
Madhi said while children were susceptible they were less likely to develop severe disease than adults but their vaccinations should not come at the expense of vulnerable adults.
On Friday the first child participating in Sinovac’s Coronavac trial received his jab in Pretoria at the Sefako Makgatho Health Science University's Mecru Research Unit.
Sahpra approved the Coronavac for use in the country in July.
The country along with Chile, the Philippines, Malaysia and Kenya are participating in the global children's vaccine trial.
Both Sahpra and the World Health Organization have approved the trial.
About 2000 of the nation’s children are participating in the trial, with children aged between six months and 17 years, but globally the trial will enrol 14000 children.
This will be conducted by a Pretoria company for Chinese vaccine manufacturer, Sinovac.
The children will each receive two doses 28 days apart and be monitored throughout the trial.