'Vaccination of 12- to 17-year-olds will lower the risk of community outbreaks'

From Wednesday, children age between 12 and 17 can go to public or private sites and get their COVID-19 jab.

FILE: This file picture taken on November 23, 2020 shows a bottle reading "Vaccine COVID-19" next to US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech logos. Picture: AFP

JOHANENSBURG - Parents are seeking more clarity and facts from health experts to help them encourage children to get the Pfizer vaccine.

From Wednesday, children age between 12 and 17 can go to public or private sites and get their jab.

Many parents have contacted the health department in recent months as they need their children to be inoculated if they want to travel outside of the country this festive season.

Many parents and children are excited that youngsters will now be able to get their COVID-19 vaccine just in time for the December holidays for those who can afford to travel abroad.

But there is also a level of anxiety and uncertainty among children and parents who say they would want to wait a bit, even if it’s just after the exams.

Co-lead investigator in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial, professor Linda-Gail Bekker, said while the vaccine was not 100% preventative, it does stop infection.

Bekker said children can pass on COVID-19 to their peers and by making sure they too are vaccinated, will lower the overall risk of community outbreaks.

“We hope that enough people are vaccinated. The amount of virus being transmitted will be reduced overall and we are weighing up the fact that children can transmit the virus while they’re not themselves at risk.”

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

The Department of Health said it was considering taking COVID-19 vaccination sites into schools from next year.

The department's acting DG Nicholas Crisp said: “We’re getting towards the end of the school year, and this is particularly aimed at children who are about to write exams and those who are going to have activities after that. To disrupt school programmes and arrange for this kind of a thing this year would not be a responsible thing to do.”

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