Anxious teens might need emotional support in facing the jab, says expert
An additional 6-million people will be eligible for Covid vaccinations this week after the government announced that children aged between 12 and 17 will be able to get the jab from Wednesday.
Educational psychologist Nicola Buhr said many teenagers in this age group would “naturally” experience some anxiety. Parents should be sensitive to this, especially in the case of children with anxiety disorders or fear of needles.
“Prepare them for having a vaccine a day or two in advance and explain the process to them and why they are getting the vaccine,” she advised.
“Parents should speak to their primary-care doctor or paediatrician about any concerns or questions that they have. Parents should plan the vaccine around other important events in case their child experiences some side effects. For example, do not get the vaccine the day before an exam.”
Teens will receive one dose of Pfizer, not two like adults would, due to caution over possible health risks. They do not need their parents’ consent to go for a jab because the Children’s Act provides for children “of sufficient maturity” aged 12 and above to decide for themselves about medical treatment.
Durban parent Antoinette Mngadi, 40, said her two daughters, aged 13 and 16, would be eligible for the vaccine but were scared.
“My husband and I have been fully vaccinated. The girls are very scared through. I don’t want to force them to get it. I did explain that at some stage or another they would need to, but maybe when they’re older they will go. For now I won’t force them, it’s their choice.”
Professor Shabir Madhi, dean of the health faculty at Wits University, questioned the decision to start vaccinating teenagers, saying it was a distraction from more critical action.
Giving one Pfizer shot to people in this age group had “limited public health value, and even less benefit at an individual level, unless [the person is] high risk”, Madhi said.
“If the government has excess vaccines, donate them to struggling neighbouring countries that don’t have access. Alternatively, immediately provide health-care workers with Pfizer booster doses, or provide third doses to people older than 60, those with terminal illness or who have compromised immune systems.”
Madhi said a single dose of Pfizer would “not protect well against infection”. The main reason for vaccinating children was to lessen the risk of infection for older people and those with high-risk conditions, he said.
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