LISTEN | Excited youngsters give SA’s vaccine rollout a shot in the arm

Delight from children and parents as Covid-19 vaccinations for 12- to 17-year-olds gets under way

20 October 2021 - 18:34
Amaani Limalia, a 12-year-old who got vaccinated at the Swartkop vaccination site in Pretoria, said she was excited after getting her jab.
PROUDLY VAXXED Amaani Limalia, a 12-year-old who got vaccinated at the Swartkop vaccination site in Pretoria, said she was excited after getting her jab.
Image: Ziphozonke Lushaba

Still dressed in her school uniform, Amaani Limalia arrived at the Swartkop Covid-19 vaccination site in Pretoria — and left feeling excited.

“I feel great,” she said, moments after getting the jab.

But she was not the only person to get the injection at the site on Wednesday, the day that children aged from 12 to 17 became eligible to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations. Many parents fetched their children from school before heading to the site.

TimesLIVE previously reported that parents would not be required to give consent for their children to be vaccinated under the Children’s Act, according to acting health department director-general Nicholas Crisp.

The age group accounts for about 6-million people in SA.

Limalia, 12 and in grade 7, said that getting the shot was “safer than not taking the vaccine because you can still get Covid-19 but the symptoms won’t be as bad”.

She survived contracting Covid-19.

I have seen all my family members get vaccinated and I am so glad that I am officially vaccinated. I sat down with my parents. At first I was a bit sceptical, but then my father spoke to me and I realised that it was the right thing to do.
Grade 9 pupil Humaira Dockrat

“I had trouble breathing, coughing, tiredness. It did make me scared but I had my family to support me,” she said, as she was accompanied for the jab by her mother and little brother.

Her mother, Naseera Limalia, 33, told Sunday Times Daily that her father had died of Covid-19.

Naseera said the younger ones also needed to be vaccinated when the time came.

“I think everyone should be vaccinated. People need to be safe. It’s not necessarily preventive, but it’s a precaution everyone should take. The virus is not going anywhere. We are losing loved ones every day,” Naseera said.

She said she had a conversation with her daughter when she heard about the vaccine trials.

“She took a few days to decide, then said she would take it. But we had Covid-19, we had the Delta variant, and it was really bad. We have lost a husband, a father. We have lost cousins, aunties, uncles. We have lost so many family members.

“So I think the little bit of caution that we do take is important to us and the people around us,” she said.

She said she was happy that her daughter received her jab.

“It’s very scary when you don’t know who you are going to lose next. I am happy that she got vaccinated but we don’t know if she can get [Covid-19] again or not. It’s just a precautionary measure and, if we do end up getting Covid-19 again, hopefully it wouldn’t be too bad,” she said.

Grade 9 pupil Humaira Dockrat,15, said the reason she got vaccinated was because she wanted to protect herself and others.
FAMILY VALUES Grade 9 pupil Humaira Dockrat,15, said the reason she got vaccinated was because she wanted to protect herself and others.
Image: Ziphozonke Lushaba

Also in his school uniform, 16-year-old Jonathan Browne said he had been eager to get vaccinated.

“It’s important to get vaccinated so we can fight Covid-19 and keep everyone around us safe. I have been talking to my parents for months. Before the vaccine was even in this country, I have wanted to get vaccinated,” the grade 10 pupil said.

His mother, Ernee Browne, said she registered her children on Wednesday morning.

“I can’t explain it. I woke up this morning and all I wanted to do was register them. I kept checking the system and when I got in at 7.40am, I was wild with excitement.

“I picked them up from school and I am here,” she said.

She said it was important for children to vaccinate “because they need to socialise with each other”.

“How can you tell children to not stand close together, to not play close together, to not socialise? Children need to be together, so they need to be vaccinated.

“Listen to the doctors. The doctors are all vaccinated. If doctors are vaccinated, vaccinate yourselves, vaccinate your children, and let’s get this economy moving, let’s get back to some form of normality,” she said.

Listen to the doctors. The doctors are all vaccinated. If doctors are vaccinated, vaccinate yourselves, vaccinate your children, and let’s get this economy moving, let’s get back to some form of normality.
Ernee Browne, mother

Another pupil, Amy Fusedale, said: “I am really happy that I have got my vaccine. I am just happy to do my part. It has been a long two years. So I am happy, I have done my part and I hope that others can too.”

The grade 10 pupil said she wanted to make sure that her family, especially the elderly, were safe after having witnessed some of her family members getting infected.

“Those two weeks were very painful, very long, and I just don’t want to experience that again,” said the 16-year-old.

Grade 9 pupil Humaira Dockrat said the reason she got vaccinated was to protect herself and others.

“I have seen all my family members get vaccinated and I am so glad that I am officially vaccinated. I sat down with my parents. At first I was a bit sceptical, but then my father spoke to me and I realised that it was the right thing to do,” she said.

Dr Shaeheda Omar from the Teddy Bear Clinic said there needed to be more concerted efforts and drive regarding the administration of vaccines to children.

“Because we know that children have been exposed to so much fake news, so much sadness, so many tragedies, so many losses, all the information that they have been exposed to over the past two years is a lot to process,” she said.

Omar said the strategy and efforts applied during the time when HIV was still new, should apply to Covid-19.

“I feel like that HIV/Aids has been addressed well, so that’s the cue for us to follow. A lot of effort was put into getting the children more informed, providing information for doing pre-test and post-test counselling, and ensuring that children are mature enough to give consent. It wasn’t just taking children randomly or taking consent from parents and just ensuring that children get tested for HIV,” Omar said.

She said having a blanket ruling was unacceptable.

“We need to ensure that the children are in a position to process this information, to understand, to develop insight and feel secure about receiving that vaccine. By forcing that they have to undergo it is unacceptable. We are always looking at the best interests of the child, according to the Children’s Act, and would it be in their best interests if they have sufficient or adequate information to empower them and help them understand why they are receiving the vaccination. I think this is something that needs to be done,” she said.

Omar said the Teddy Bear Clinic was now looking into working with children and parents to address the issue.

“We cannot impose, but we can break down the risks and the benefits by making children understand if they do not receive the vaccine, these are the possibilities; if they receive the vaccine these are the possibilities. This is what we are looking at,” said Omar.

“At the end of the day, we must have the right to choose. You can’t just force children and expect them to accept it,” she said.

Lucy Jamieson, of the Children’s Institute at UCT, said: “The law tries to balance giving children autonomy and protecting them from burdensome decisions by requiring parents, caregivers or other adults to support them.” 

Jamieson said even though adolescents can chose for themselves it is important for parents and caregivers to listen to their children and discuss the risks and benefits.

“Learning to make good choices is an important part of children and young people’s development and growth, so finding out about the vaccine and the weighing up the risks and benefits should be a positive experience. Upholding the wishes of children about their own medical treatment is part and parcel of acting in their best interests. However, we should aim to balance respect for children’s evolving capacities, as well as their autonomy with developmental realities and parental interests on this critical issue.”

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