Teens pooh-pooh antivax rumours as they boost rollout numbers

31 October 2021 - 00:00
Teens are getting vaccinated in SA across provinces, boosting the national rollout.
Teens are getting vaccinated in SA across provinces, boosting the national rollout.
Image: 123rf/seventyfour74

Enthusiastic teens who are lining up for the Covid-19 jab across all provinces have driven up the vaccination needle, which had been dropping, by nearly 120,000 in the past week.

“I lost two relatives due to Covid and that scared me a lot. I knew I wanted to get vaccinated as soon as possible, but I was also terrified,” said 14-year-old Solakha Noyi, who had her jab on Wednesday.

“After six hours had passed, I did not experience any side effects or pain. I really wish all these rumours [about vaccines] would go away because they are delaying the process of recovery.”

Nearly a 10th of the shots given in the Western Cape on Wednesday, 2,000 out of 24,000, went to 12- to 17-year-olds such as Noyi,  of Kwanokuthula near Plettenberg Bay.

“We know that the more people that take the vaccine, the bigger the chance that life can get back to normal for everyone,” said Noyi.


Since the single Pfizer shot became available to teens on October 20, about 12,000 adolescents a day on average have been among about 180,000 people getting protection against Covid.

Brandi Ryland, 15, made the decision to get vaccinated long ago because she is a chronic asthmatic with a long list of allergies. “Covid is deadly, and by taking the vaccine I am protecting myself and people around me,” she said.

“We, as children, have lost out on so much of school and the fun things that happen, like camps, productions and much more because of Covid. We just want to get back to life before Covid and enjoy being free from the worry and stress.”

Pupils in her school were “very positive” about taking the vaccine in a survey, she told the Sunday Times through the Western Cape Children’s Commissioner.

Ryland, who got her shot last Friday, said: “I felt nothing when the needle went in. I was  expecting to have side effects … but I had none. I’m feeling fantastic.”

Professor Mignon McCulloch, who is on the South African Paediatric Association executive committee, said she understood parents’ anxiety, but millions of teens in the US and Europe had been vaccinated without complications.


• 6.94 billion - Shots globally
• 21.92 million - Shots in SA

“In the US, 57% of teenagers have had two vaccinations, and in France, Italy and Spain, more than 60% of teens have already had two,” said McCulloch, the head of paedriatic renal and organ transplants at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town. 

The paediatric association had been monitoring the vaccine’s safety and potential risks, she said, adding that the risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) among teenagers was about 40 times higher from getting Covid than from getting vaccinated.

“Covid is a risk in particular to children with comorbidities,” said McCulloch, who has lost two patients at Red Cross to the disease.

Teens who got vaccinated could “protect their family and would help the whole community”, she said. “They like to socialise and want to get their lives back, to have fun and go back to school. They don’t want to be locked up forever.”

Zubair Ryklief, 16, of Belhar in Cape Town, realised after a valedictory party surrounded by people that he was scared of getting Covid again, or giving it to someone else.

“I found myself putting on a mask even though they were all close family members. I came home that night and immediately registered myself for the vaccine,” said Ryklief, who got the shot on Tuesday.

In a survey by gig tech company M4Jam, of 1,886 people who were mostly parents, 80% said they would get their children vaccinated.

More than half were still worried about short- and long-term side effects, but “64% of parents said all that mattered to them was how effective the vaccine was in children”.


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