Children over 12 years can get the Covid-19 vaccine without a parent’s consent — Here’s why

Covid-19 vaccinations for children aged 12 to 17 years will open on October 20. File Photo.
Covid-19 vaccinations for children aged 12 to 17 years will open on October 20. File Photo.
Image: 123RF/Katarzyna Białasiewicz

As the Covid-19 vaccination rollout for children between the ages of 12 and 17 years draws nearer, parents have expressed concern about a statement made by national health department acting director-general Dr Nicholas Crisp that this age group will not need parental consent.

“Children do not need their parent’s consent generally for any medical treatment, but parents can give consent for their children to get vaccinated. It is possible for a child between the ages of 12 and 17 years to go for vaccination at a health service without their parent’s consent,” Crisp told eNCA on Friday.

What does the law say?

The Children’s Act states: “A child may consent to his or her own medical treatment or to the medical treatment of his or her child if the child is over the age of 12 years and the child is of sufficient maturity and has the mental capacity to understand the benefits, risks, social and other implications of the treatment.”

This provision further extends to children over 12 years consenting to the performance of surgical procedures for themselves and their children provided they are mature enough to understand the risks and are duly assisted by their parents or guardians. 

Vaccination with caution 

Health minister Joe Phaahla told the media on Friday the vaccination of the age cohort will launch on October 20. He said the decision was taken after deliberations between the vaccine ministerial advisory committee (VMAC) supported by health MECs and cabinet.

Last month the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), approved emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine in children aged 12 to 17 years.

Sahpra told TimesLIVE children will experience the same side-effects as adults, adding that studies have also shown rare cases of heart inflammation in young boys after receiving the second dose. 

Phaahla said these will be monitored.

“The VMAC advised that for now, we only give one dose while assessing information which suggests that in a few cases there have been short-lived cases of transient myocarditis after two doses. The timing of the second dose will be informed by further information on this rarely observed side-effect which has no permanent risk,” he said. 

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