Questions around consent arise as 12 to 17 age group now eligible for COVID jab

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.

In this file photo taken on 30 December 2020, vials of undiluted Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to administer to staff and residents at the Goodwin House Bailey's Crossroads, a senior living community in Falls Church, Virginia. Picture: Brendan Smialowski/AFP

JOHANNESBURG - On the first day of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to children between the ages of 12 and 17, many are grappling with questions around identity documents, consent, child-headed households and transport.

The Health Department said that for now there would not be any special vaccine sites at schools for children while preparations were under way for final exams.

For now, eligible youngsters will be able to get one Pfizer jab. However, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has not yet been approved for use among this cohort.

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"I am 12-years-old and it is a really risky thing that children will even experience having this vaccine in your body," one child said.

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

There's 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.

But whose responsibility is it to ensure that these boys and girls rely on facts and not fake news that has been spreading on social media?

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.

Acting Director-General Nicholas Crisp said that it was up to families to sort out these dynamics if a child refused to get vaccinated.

"I think it's the responsibility of the family to talk it through and sort it out between themselves. We do know that there's a large number of child-headed households and that we need to make provision for those," Crisp said.

Youngsters need to take either their South African ID cards, birth certificates, foreign passports or any verifiable asylum proof of identity with them to the vaccine sites to register for the vaccine.

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