Covid-19 Vaccinations for age group 12 -17 years
Since April 2021, there have been reports of cases of myocarditis (inflammation of heart muscles), and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart) predominately in males under 30 years of age. Those taking the vaccines should be informed that they need to seek help if the child (or adult) experiences chest pain, shortness of breath, or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heartbeat. The reports are extremely rare and in most cases the symptoms are mild and resolve quickly.
Generally, vaccine side effects in children are the same as adults. The child might notice pain at the injection site (upper arm) and could feel more tired than usual. Headache, achy muscles or joints, and even fever and chills are also possible. These side effects are usually temporary and generally clear up within 48 hours.
As South Africa races to vaccinate 70% of its population ahead of the anticipated 4th wave, the Minister of Health announced that as from Wednesday 20th October 2021 registration and vaccination of children between the ages of 12 to 17 years will open.
There are six million adolescents in this cohort and government aims to vaccinate three million with a single shot Pfizer vaccine before the December school holidays.
While COVID-19 infection in children is milder than in adults, data indicates that some children can get severe lung infections, become very sick and even require hospitalization when they contract COVID-19. Considering that the delta variant is particularly contagious, children are likely to transmit the virus to others including family, friends, and to individuals within the school environment. Government, including the expert committee, and other reputable institutions believe that the country will benefit from this age group getting vaccinated.
The vaccine will;
prevent or reduce the spread of COVID-19;
help prevent other variants emerging;
help restore normality; and
help protect the community.
Whilst the Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) welcomes the COVID-19 jab for kids, we are aware of the controversy surrounding the statement from the Minister that children over 12 do not require consent from their parents to get the jab.
The Child Act acknowledges the fact that in South Africa there are many child-headed families, and this piece of legislation makes it possible for these children to access healthcare. However, most children do have some form of parental or guardian support and ICPA believes that in these cases, vaccinators should endeavour to obtain parental consent before vaccinating any child under the age of 16.
A parent will be able to give a full medical history and indicate whether a child has been vaccinated previously and whether there were any adverse reactions – a child may not remember and may not understand their medical condition. “We are advising our vaccination sites to work with parents and guardians and to obtain consent before vaccinating children in order to get the best health outcome for that child” says Jackie Maimin, CEO of ICPA.