South Africa
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Parents have mixed feelings about teens getting Covid-19 jabs

Children aged 12 to 17 will be able to be vaccinated as of 20 October – and they don’t necesarily need a parent’s or guardian’s permission to do so.

This was confirmed on Friday by Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla, who said the health department was preparing the
electronic vaccination data system (EVDS), as well as working on logistical preparations.

According to Unisa Professor Hanneretha Kruger’s paper – The Protection of Children’s Right to Self-Determination in South African Law with Specific Reference to Medical Treatment and Operations – the “Children’s Act 38 of 2005 provides that children over the age of 12 years can consent to their own medical treatment or that of their children, provided they are of sufficient maturity and have the mental capacity to understand the benefits, risks, social and other implications of the treatment”.

This accounts for the Covid vaccine as well, which essentially means even if parents do not want their child to get the jab, that child can still visit a vaccination facility and get their Pfizer dose.

However, Thelma Nkoana, a parent to a 14-year-old, said government was forcing the idea of vaccinations onto people.

“Why should a child who always needs consent for everything else not need consent for a vaccine? It is as though they are scaring us into getting the vaccine or some are scaring us against it,” she said

“So it’s confusing because you want to be protected but at the same time, you don’t want your children to die because of your decisions.”

However, Nozuko Theledi, mother to a 17-year-old, said she would encourage her daughter to get the vaccine to prevent hospitalisation.

“I’m keen on my child receiving the vaccine because I will be responsible for her if she contracts the virus and would have to take her to the hospital and I don’t want that,” she said.

Public health lawyer and researcher Safura Abdool Karim said she was not aware of any regulations which were passed to indicate that parental consent is not required but it could be possible it was not required.

“At the moment it is true that, for example, girls aged 12 to 17 are able to access reproductive healthcare, which includes seeking a termination of a pregnancy and contraceptives… without needing consent from parents.

“There is still debate about whether or not parents can refuse treatment on behalf of their children.”

Abdool Karim said the most common instances raised in ethical committees are of children requiring blood transfusions and, being Jehovah’s Witnesses, are not allowed to do so.

“There has not been a clear determination in those cases whether a child can get those types of treatments
without their parents’ consent.”

She said it was not clear whether it would be the same for Covid.

The estimated six million 12 to 17 year olds will receive one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, as per the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority’s approval.

This is due to the Ministerial Advisory Committee’s monitoring of the rare side-effect of transient myocarditis in younger vaccine recipients after their second dose.

This results in a slight inflammation of the heart muscle but Phaahla said the first dose did not have any serious side-effects and would still offer “significant protection”.