Vaccination of children will ensure they get back to school soon: Section27
Section27 has asked to be admitted as a friend of the court in an application by the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) which seeks to interdict the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines to adolescents aged 12 to 17.
The public-interest law centre says it wants to argue that granting an order stopping the vaccination of adolescents will have a negative effect on children’s rights to basic education, health and equality.
“This is because Covid-19 has made school closures and rotational timetables necessary, which has led to significant lost learning time. Vaccinations are crucial to help prevent further school closures and rotational learning,” Section27 said in a statement.
Section27 said it is imperative that pupils get back to daily learning as quickly as possible and this necessitates continuing the vaccination of adolescents.
The ACDP, together with recently formed organisations Free the Children — Save the Nation, Caring Healthcare Workers Coalition and Covid Care Alliance, launched the application before the high court in Pretoria recently seeking an urgent interdict to halt the rollout of children’s vaccinations.
Section27 brought its application to be admitted as a friend of the court after the ACDP indicated it did not consent to its admission as a friend.
Section27, in an affidavit filed on Monday, said the ACDP failed to consider the grave socioeconomic context that schools and pupils were being subjected to.
It said the use of rotational timetables to ensure social distancing at schools was not a sustainable or effective measure because of the state of overcrowding in the majority of public schools.
Zeenat Sujee, an attorney at Section27, said vaccines were safe, passing all the testing measures done for any other medicines.
“The risks of vaccination are much lower than the risks of Covid-19. The ability of adolescents to get vaccinated will help alleviate the strain on the schooling and healthcare systems, and promote learners’ rights to basic education, health, equality and dignity,” she said.
Section27’s court papers also showed that Covid-19 school closures negatively impacted pupils’ mental health and educational attainment.
It said the effects of the rotational learning system were disproportionately felt by poorer pupils in public schools.
In an expert affidavit for Section27, Dr Sara Muller said overcrowding in schools made it virtually impossible for pupils to attend school and still maintain acceptable levels of social distancing.
Muller said without vaccination, rotational timetabling systems are likely to continue for long periods.
Section27’s application also contains the expert affidavit of Dr Shaheda Omar of the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children.
Omar’s affidavit provides real-life examples of the mental health effects of Covid-19 on SA children as is evident through the work of the clinic. The impact included increased rates of abuse and violence at home.
Omar said many children will continue to remain at risk for as long as they are unable to return to any semblance of a normal life.
If vaccinated, they were more likely to be able to participate in their normal routines, with less disruptions to school attendance and other activities.
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