Slow start to inoculation programme for children between 12 and 17

Raees Benjamin 12, listens to a healthcare worker before receiving his Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at the Vaccination Centre of Hope at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Wednesday. (Photo: Supplied)

Vaccination sites expected a rush of children between the ages of 12 and 17 on the first day of the roll-out of the programme, but few teenagers made it to the sites.

In South Africa, the vaccination programme for children between the ages of 12 and 17 is under way. According to the National Department of Health, children between these ages are eligible for only one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Daily Maverick visited some Johannesburg vaccination sites in sub-district D.

Chris Hani Baragwanath vaccination site is usually one of the busiest in Joburg, with people from across districts coming in to get their vaccines.

But Wednesday was different. Few people arrived for vaccines and even worse, children between the ages of 12 and 17, whose vaccination programme had begun and were expected to come in numbers, hardly pitched.

According to the staff at the site, Bara had only six children between the ages of 12 and 17 coming in.

It was a similar case in Chiawelo Community Healthcare Centre— fewer people coming in and no children at all.

A nurse at the Chiawelo vaccination site said, “The number of vaccinations is getting fewer by the day and once we open the bottle of the vaccine it has to at least be for four to six people. But the reality is we have approximately one person coming in two hours, and often much older people.”   

Colin Jooste, a resident of Observatory, Cape Town, said the city’s Hope Street Clinic was also empty. His granddaughter Mieke Jooste was the first 12-year-old to be vaccinated there.

Mieke Jooste, a Grade 7 pupil from Observatory, Cape Town, was the first 12-year-old to be vaccinated at the City of Cape Town’s Hope Street Clinic. (Photo: Colin Jooste)

Mieke Jooste and her sister Chloe (15) both got their jabs at the site.

Mieke told Daily Maverick: “I almost walked away before getting my vaccine because I am not a fan of needles at all. But it’s not as painful as I had anticipated. My arm is numb, but I will be okay.”

children vaccinated
Sisters, Raabi’ah 16, and Tay-yibah Ebrahim 13, in the observation area after receiving a first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at the Vaccination Centre of Hope at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Wednesday, 20 October 2021. (Photo: Supplied)

On the question of whether she would advise friends to get the vaccine, Meike jokingly said, “Of course, I want them to feel the pain I felt!”

Jooste believes the reason so few teenagers pitched at vaccination sites today is that parents have reservations.

However, the issue of consent has sparked an ongoing debate, with many questioning the Children’s Act, the relationship between children’s rights and parents’ responsibilities and rights.

Ziyaad Benjamin 16, receives a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at the Vaccination Centre of Hope at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in Cape Town. (Photo: Supplied)

In a  press statement responding to the issue of consent, The Children’s Institute, a University of Cape Town organisation committed to child rights and child-focused policies, laws and programmes, said children can consent to medical treatment, including vaccination, if:

(a) the child is over the age of 12 years; and

(b) the child is of sufficient maturity and has the mental capacity to understand the benefits, risks, social and other implications of the treatment.

Lucy Jamieson, of the Children’s Institute at UCT, said, The Children’s Act recognises and respects children’s evolving capacities and gives them the responsibility to make decisions, but ensures that they do so only if they can understand the choice they are making. There is also a duty on adults to help children make good decisions.” DM

All eligible children can register for vaccination through the Electronic Vaccination Data System.


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