South African Paediatric Association welcomes Covid-19 vaccines opening to young teens
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Durban: To vaccinate or not? That is the question that parents of children from the age of 12 upwards are asking, now that the youngsters are eligible for Covid-19 jabs.
Dr Joe Phaahla, the minister of health announced on Friday that children aged between 12 and 17, will be able to get the one dose of the Pfizer vaccine from Wednesday.
He said the decision was taken following recommendations from the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC).
“We believe that this will come in handy as the schools start their examinations, and for some that have already advanced towards concluding the academic year and studying to prepare for the next academic year,” he said.
Those over the age of 18 get two shots of the Pfizer vaccine but the youngsters get a single jab as per recommendations from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).
The SAHPRA approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 and older last month.
Phaahla said the single dose was a precautionary measure as there were a few cases of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, in teenage boys.
“At this stage, there’s been no indication that the first dose has any serious side effects so, for now, it will be just one. But we believe it will still offer significant protection and once we get more information, we will offer the second dose.”
Research coming out of America showed that there was an increase in myocarditis and pericarditis in young men and adults 16 and over after they took the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle, while pericarditis is the inflammation of the lining outside the heart.
The information comes from the Mayo Clinic - a non-profit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research – based in America. According to the reports, the cases were rare and none had been linked to any deaths.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating to see if there is any relationship to the COVID-19 vaccination. Of the cases reported, the problem happened more often after the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and typically within several days after the COVID-19 vaccination. Most of the people who received care quickly felt better after receiving medicine and resting,” it noted.
The Mayo Clinic said symptoms to watch for included:
*Shortness of breath
*Feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart
They said if a child experienced any of these symptoms within a week of getting a COVID-19 vaccine they should seek medical care.
SA REGISTRATION, ROLL-OUT
Dr Nicholas Crisp, the acting director-general of health, said the programme would not be rolled out at schools but at vaccination sites.
However, even children as young as 12 do not need their parent’s permission to get a Covid-19 jab. According to Crisp, the Children’s Act makes provision for children aged 12 to 17 to access medical treatment without their parent's consent under certain guidelines.
Parents have mixed feelings.
Giren Singh of Pietermaritzburg, a father of two children aged 14 and 16, said he would take his children for a vaccination.
“It is imperative that all children and teenagers should receive the vaccine. Children are in constant contact with adults whether in school or at home. They are also carriers of Covid and can be asymptomatic.
“While the chances of children not contracting the virus are not guaranteed, the vaccine is said to alleviate severe Covid symptoms, death and build herd immunity. I also believe that the vaccine will bring some normality back into our children’s lives as well as the education sector, which has been severely disrupted,” Singh said.
Michelle Naidu of Chatsworth, a mother of a 12-year-old child, said while the department of health said parental consent was not needed, it was parents who would have to deal with any side effects that may arise.
"This I fear may be too severe for a child to cope with. Many adults have spoken of the constant headaches, fever, and body aches after taking the vaccine. I don’t know if my child will be able to cope, both physically and mentally.”
Farzana Ahmed, of Berea, a mother of three children aged 11, 13, and 16, had mixed feelings.
“I am still on the fence on whether I would want my children to get the vaccine as you hear of all the side effects, some that are quite severe. However, I also want them to be protected.
“We have had many members of our extended family as well as friends who passed on due to the Covid-19. I will have to sit down with my children to find out what they want to do,” she said.
Professor Mignon McCulloch, the chairperson of the South African Paediatric Association (Sapa), said: “We think the vaccine is good for everybody. The government has done the correct thing. With the opportunity to have the vaccine, we are trying to keep them in school, trying to make sure they don’t miss exams, and we are also trying to push for the whole country to have more than 70% of the population to be vaccinated.
“We also know that the younger people have less chances of getting severe Covid and that the vaccine does prevent severe infections, hospitalisation and death,” she said.