Cape Town - National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) believes that a mandatory policy should be implemented to ensure that more children between 12 and 17 become vaccinated.
As of Wednesday, December 8, more than 600 thousand children between the ages of 12-17 went for their vaccine.
This is a far cry from more than five million children, in terms of the school realities report, between those ages.
Executive director of Naptosa, Basil Manuel, said: “This is not something new or different. In SA, public schools are not permitted to enrol children who have not been vaccinated, so having a vaccination mandate now would be no different. More should be done to encourage parents and children to vaccinate.”
“The naysayers and anti-vaccination Mafia have spread doubt and fear much more effectively and efficiently than the Department of Health (DoH) has done advocacy. We need to get all children back to school. This is not possible if vaccination rates remain low,” he said.
General Secretary of the South Africa Teachers' Union (SAOU) Chris Klopper said as a union, they have no qualm with the principle of vaccination.
“We believe that it is imperative that the maximum number of persons must be vaccinated. Children who are vaccinated also promote a safe school and work environment that is to the benefit of pupils and education staff. Now that Omicron also infects young children, we believe that it justifies and vindicates our position,” he said.
Patricia Smit said she sent her 14-year-old son for the vaccine because she believes it is her responsibility as a parent to protect her children.
“I would rather him have the vaccine and be healthy and more protected against Covid-19 than not give it to him and be resentful if he should get sick. As a family, we like to travel, so as a precautionary measure, we felt it necessary to be prepared and get the vaccine, even though children younger than 17 years old are not compulsory yet. I believe that schools should make vaccines mandatory. I feel that to give every pupil and teacher an equal chance at a happy and healthy school environment,” she said.
Shaundre Lottering said she would not be sending her children for the vaccine.
“It has not been tested properly, and there is no guarantee, so I would not want my child to be vaccinated. They can’t even tell me that my child will be 100% safe if they got the vaccine,” she said.
Department of Basic Education (DBE) spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said: “It is quite encouraging to see that so many pupils got the vaccines even before we started with the vaccination programme in schools. There are discussions that it could happen, but DBE and the Department of Health (DoH) have not yet finalised the plans.
“Primary schools have gone back to capacity as of August 2. We would like schools to return to normal, but it all depends on the Covid-19 infection rate. Whatever happens, must be done responsibly, taking into account the public health factors that DoH is managing.
“There is a national catastrophe unfolding with every day that pupils are not in school. The future looks bleak for the children and the country as a whole,” he said.