Children from 12 to 17 years old can now start receiving COVID-19 vaccine. Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, announced on Friday that government is ready to expand the vaccination roll-out to this age group from next Wednesday, 20 October.
The Minister was briefing the nation on efforts to fight COVID-19 and the vaccination roll-out programme.
Phaahla said this group is mostly a secondary school cohort, which is currently finalizing the 2021 academic year.
“I’m happy to announce vaccination for children between the age of 12 to 17 years. This follows recommendations we received from our Ministerial Advisory Committee on vaccination. It was also supported by Health MECs when we met on Tuesday and Cabinet on Wednesday. This service will start on the 20th of October to allow the necessary preparation on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) and also other logistical preparations.
"The Pfizer vaccine which has been approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority for this age group will be used. The vaccine Ministerial Advisory Committee advised that for now we should only give one dose of Pfizer, while assessing information which suggests that in a few cases all over the world, there have been few cases of Myocarditis after the second dose. This rare finding of this adverse effect is a slight inflammation on the heart muscle, which has been noticed in a few cases. At this stage there has been no indication the first dose has had any serious side effects,” said Phaahla.
The Health department’s acting Director-General, Dr Nicholas Crisp, said the roll-out for this age cohort will not be done in schools, but at private and public vaccination sites. He added that the department is currently in talks with the Basic Education counterpart and that they will upgrade the EVDS to change the consent form to allow for children’s consent on side effects that may happen.
The department said the date will give “few days for those who are writing matric examinations to be vaccinated and a couple of days to get over any mild side effects that they might experience. “
Dr Phaahla said more than one and half million vaccination certificates had already been downloaded. He highlighted that more than 10 million text messages with vaccination codes were resent, in case some people who have been vaccinated had not saved their sms’s and therefore were unable to locate their vaccination codes.
The Minister also apologized after some people complained that they could not download their vaccination certificates.
“We acknowledge that many people were frustrated when the system was not responding. This was largely due to big numbers at peak time. The system is being attended to. We apologise for the inconvenience to those who had to try many times, especially those who had the pressure to use the certificate urgently,” explained the Minister.
South Africa recorded 733 new coronavirus cases and 56 deaths.