As COVID vaccine drive opens to teens, parents urged not to force jabs on kids

The AfroCentric Group's, Doctor Samukeliso Dube, urged parents to educate their children on the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations.

FILE: A vaccinator recording the details of a vaccine set to be given to a healthcare worker at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria on 17 February 2021. Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN - Children between the ages of 12 and 17 can from Wednesday line up for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced last week that government was ready to expand South Africa's mass inoculation programme to also include this cohort.

Medical experts have reiterated the importance of including this group as part of the country's mass immunisation drive.

The AfroCentric Group's, Doctor Samukeliso Dube, urged parents to educate their children on the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations.

"Children should have broad agency because they have to make decisions on whether they want to do this or not. They should be active participants, in other words they should not be forced to get into that space and we do want to ensure that children also do have a voice."

Dube reiterated that COVID-19 vaccines were safe.

"Even if you get the one jab, your immunity levels should improve significantly."

Government said that this cohort would initially receive one shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine while they awaited data on whether to administer the second dose of the vaccination schedule.

VACCINE HESITANCY

There's been mixed reaction among youngsters who qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine from Wednesday and parents are hoping that their children will make the right decision.

"I don't think it is a really great idea giving young kids this vaccination because we don't even know what's in the vaccine. Some kids don't even have a strong immune system," said 12-year-old Boitumelo Modise. She said that it was too risky and you would not find her near a vaccination site any time soon.

An older teenager was excited at the prospect of getting her vaccine.

"I'm 17-years-old and all my friends and I are excited. Walking around whilst vaccinated does save lives," the teenager said.

The Health Department is recommending that parents have an open discussion with their children about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines to help them make an informed decision.

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