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COVID-19: South Africa to vaccinate 12 to 17-year-olds

The Pfizer vaccine, which has been approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, will be administered to the age group. But the children and teenagers will only receive one dose at this stage, unlike adults who have been receiving two doses over a period.

October 16, 2021 / 07:11 AM IST
Representative image.

Representative image.

South Africa will start vaccinating children and teenagers from October 20 as its steps up its drive to reach heard immunity against Covid by giving half of its six million young people the jab by December.

“We have reached the stage where we are ready to open up vaccination for children between the age of 12 and 17,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Friday.

The Pfizer vaccine, which has been approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, will be administered to the age group. But the children and teenagers will only receive one dose at this stage, unlike adults who have been receiving two doses over a period.

“The Ministerial Vaccine Advisory Committee advised that for now we should only give one dose of Pfizer while assessing information which suggests that in few cases all over the world, there have been some short-lived cases of transient myocarditis after the second dose.

“This rare finding of this adverse effect is a slight inflammation on the heart muscle which has been noticed in a few cases. While this is being monitored all over the world, at this stage there is no indication that this first dose has any serious side effects, so for now it will be just one dose while the studies are continuing, which we believe will still offer significant protection,” Phaahla said.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The minister said that once the information emerging had been reviewed, a second dose would be considered. “But we can assure the parents and the young people that even where this has been noticed, it has had no permanent risk. So, we are just taking precautions in this case,” he added.

Phaahla said the vaccines would not be made available at schools for now though he believed that there would be benefit to those who are on the cusp of starting their end-of-year examinations.

''We believe that this will be handy as the schools start their examinations - some of them are already advanced towards concluding their academic year and are starting to prepare for the next academic year of 2022,” the minister said.

Children would not necessarily have to get their parents’’ consent to be vaccinated, according to Acting Director General of the Department of Health, Nicholas Crisp.

“The Children’s’ Act makes provision for children from the age of 12 to 17, who are not yet adults, to give their own consents for medical treatments and there are provisions within the sub-clauses of the Act which explain which children can give consent for what,” Crisp said.

“Children do not need their parents’ consent generally for any medical treatment and there are specific guidelines on that. Parents can give consent for their children to get vaccinated, (but it is also) possible for a child between the age of 12 and 17 to go to a vaccination centre without their parents’ consent,” Crisp said.
PTI
first published: Oct 16, 2021 07:13 am

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