Vaccinating children


Nurses hesitant to vaccinate children without parental consent, saying ‘They’re way too young’

Although there are some who are unsure about whether or not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, data shows that vaccination against the disease reduces the risk of becoming seriously ill if one is infected. Furthermore, while the vaccine does not guarantee 100% protection against infection, it does reduce the risk of catching and transmitting the virus. To date, c. 25% of the South African population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 20% are fully vaccinated. The vaccine is now available to children age 12-17, but vaccinating children raises some issues, as covered in this article which we share from Parent 24. 

Reprinted from Parent 24, by Elizabeth Mamacos – 2021-10-26

As the Covid-19 vaccination programme rolls out to children aged 12 to 17, some families are finding themselves in conflict, disagreeing over whether or not they approve of their children receiving the long-awaited shot.

Of those who have lined up so far, some parents are reporting that their children were asked to sign permission forms, while others say that nurses insisted a parent sign.

Dr Nicholas Crisp, acting director-general of the national health department, confirmed to News24 that when getting vaccinated, a child (aged 12 to 17) needs to arrive with their birth certificate or another form of ID.

This is because children must be registered on the national Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) in order to get vaccinated, and to confirm their identity, they need a South African ID card, birth certificate with registration number, foreign passport or any verifiable asylum/refugee proof of identity bearing the name of the child.

He also says that they do not have to have a parent or legal guardian with them, but it is preferred that children are accompanied.

The law allows the child to consent, but what might happen if a child’s parents are against vaccination and refuse to assist?

‘Unlikely to end in success’

Business Insider reports that after this first week of teenage vaccinations, it is clear that a child trying to arrange their own vaccination will, in practice, find it effectively impossible.

If the child doesn’t have one of these forms of identification, they could, in theory, approach South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs (DoH), but since this is not usual, it’s unlikely to end in success.

When asked if they would provide a child with their birth certificate, the DoH referred questions on the topic to the Department of Health.

Another issue is the signing of consent documentation. Dr Crisp confirms that either the child or their accompanying adult can sign the permission forms, but it would be preferred if the parent or guardian signed.

‘Some may be hesitant’ 

And while the law says a child can consent, will the nurses vaccinate a child without their parent or guardian present?

Dr Crisp admits that while the Children’s Act says a parent may not withhold consent, in practice this may be difficult.

“Health practitioners may proceed, but some may be hesitant to do so,” he says.

‘They’re way too young’ 

We spoke to a nurse at Clicks Welgemoed in Johannesburg, who asked to remain anonymous before confirming that she has hesitations about vaccinating an unaccompanied child, sharing that she would prefer an adult to accompany the child.

“What if the child reacts to the vaccine?” she asked, adding “I can assist, but I’m scared of the side effects that will occur if the child is alone.”

However, a nurse who works at Clicks Tyger Valley in the Western Cape told us, on condition of anonymity, that they will not vaccinate an unaccompanied minor.

“The child has to be with a parent or a guardian,” she said.

“If they are 16 and older, then yes [they can be vaccinated], but if they’re younger than 16, they have to come with a guardian or adult, because they’re way too young.”

There appears to be a disconnect between the legal standpoint and how this plays out in practice, and currently it would seem that a child who wants to be vaccinated, without parental assistance, might find themselves reliant on the luck of the draw, dependent on the whims of the nurse on duty.

For advice on your rights

SD Law is a Cape Town law firm, also in Johannesburg and Durban, that is passionate about the law and about upholding the Constitution and defending human rights. If you think your rights are being infringed, give Simon a call on 086 099 5146 or email for a confidential discussion about your case.

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