Johannesburg – The Covid-19 vaccine programme for teenagers is an opportunity for parents to teach their children to think about the broader public health benefits of a vaccine, says a medical doctor.
Last week, the Department of Health announced that it had seen the highest number of vaccinations following the opening of the vaccination programme for children aged 12 to 17 on Wednesday.
A total of 35 739 were vaccinated by Friday, the highest number of vaccinations recorded as compared to Wednesday and Thursday.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla had announced that children would be given a shot of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine.
However, the opening of vaccination programme begged the question whether South Africa should vaccinate its teens and pre-teens when it is often reported that Covid-19 affected them less than it does adults.
Dr Samukeliso Dube, general manager at AfroCentric, told The Star that the vaccination was not only about the individual child but also those around the child, including teachers, parents and grandparents.
“A vaccine is a public health good so it is not just meant for you. It’s also meant for those who are around you and in the areas where you interact.
’’In this case, you go to school, you go and visit your grandparents and now, for the matric, I’m sure they are dying to go to Rage parties,” she said.
Dube added that the Pfizer vaccine was safe for children but this didn’t mean that children were free from the side effects.
She said if a child had any underlying conditions, they should see their medical practitioner before getting vaccinated.
“In many cases where there are teens who have pre-existing conditions like diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune diseases or are taking medication, we know that they are at higher risk of complications from Covid-19…
“We know that if someone doesn’t have a severe allergy to a vaccine component, we encourage that they get vaccinated but we encourage parents to speak to their children’s specialist or paediatrician to discuss what individual risks look like, and the benefits, to determine whether a child should receive a vaccine or not,” she said.
Dube also weighed in on the matter of consent, as children in this cohort can give consent to getting the Covid-19 vaccine according to the Children’s Act.
“We know that consent should be informed at any given time… When such things like vaccines come into play, we need to make sure that children have agency, meaning they know what exactly is at stake about the decision they are taking and they are also active participants in the programme,” Dube said.
She added that it was also important that children had a voice and expressed how they felt about the vaccination programme.
Dube said parents played an important role in ensuring that children had both a voice and agency.
The general manager emphasised that the opening of vaccinations for children was an opportunity for parents to teach their children to think of the broader public health benefits that a vaccine has.
“This is a test of a lifetime and how as humans we can pull together for a public good,” she said.