Adding vaccination to the back-to-school list
Children countrywide are preparing for the 2022 school year after a holiday during which South Africans enjoyed relaxed restrictions amid the Omicron-driven fourth wave of COVID-19 infections. With many returning to their school desks soon, getting vaccinated is extremely important in the fight against the pandemic.Why it is important for teenagers to get vaccinated?
In October 2021, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) stated that the vaccination of adolescents against COVID-19 may “reduce the duration of symptoms, limit the transmission of the infection to others, and allow an earlier return to school and normal activities.”
The NICD said it was particularly important for adolescents with underlying conditions such as diabetes, cancer, HIV and obesity to receive the vaccine. The Institute’s data has shown that adolescents with these underlying conditions are at greater risk of death from COVID-19 compared to those without underlying conditions.
Children aged 12 to 17 are eligible to receive two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The jabs must be taken 42 days apart.
Dr Christo du Preez, Senior Manager of Health Innovation at Medihelp, says the Scheme makes use of its good relationship with healthcare providers and works closely with experts in the field to evaluate the impact of diseases and specific treatments. “When it comes to COVID-19, vaccinations and children, who better to take advice from than our paediatricians who treat children and do their utmost to guide parents in preventing COVID-19 in children of all age groups? Dr Despina Demopoulos, who serves on the Executive Committee of the South African Paediatric Association (SAPA), emphasises that COVID-19 is a preventable disease, that vaccination can help to curb its spread, and that vaccines have been thoroughly tested and have proven to be an exceptionally effective low-risk intervention. This view is echoed by Prof. Mignon McCulloh, also on SAPA’s Executive Committee and associate professor at the Red Cross, who encourages vaccination in children in high-risk groupings such as cancer patients,” Dr du Preez said.
According to Dr du Preez, the World Health Organization (WHO) asserts that vaccinating children will reduce the burden of disease in children, considering the importance of transgenerational spread, where children and adolescents of school-going age play an important role.
“The WHO, together with SAPA, expressed concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on educational programmes. Vaccination can help stabilise the dynamics of the virus spread and variant development within a country, and assist in keeping the educational environment safe and active,” he said.Vaccination consent
Children between the ages of 12 and 17 are able to get vaccinated without their parents’ consent.
Isabel Magaya from the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria says according to section 129 of the Children's Act of South Africa 38 of 2005, children can consent to medical treatment, including vaccination, if they are older than 12 years and possess sufficient maturity and the mental capacity to understand the benefits, risks, social and other implications of the treatment.
Where children are older than 12 but do not understand the risks and benefits of medical treatment, a parent, guardian or caregiver may give consent on their behalf. They should however be consulted, as they have a right to be heard and their views should be respected, says Prof. Ann Skelton of the University of Pretoria and a member of the UN Child Rights Committee.Will Medihelp cover the cost of the vaccination?
Yes. Medihelp pays the full cost of the COVID-19 vaccine and the administering thereof in full from a separate benefit that will not deplete members’ day-to-day benefits.