Covid-19 Pfizer jab for teens around the corner
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Pretoria - South Africa is following in the footsteps of a few countries across the world that have begun the vaccination of children aged 12 to 17.
This followed an approval of the use of the Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine on children older than 12 in terms of Section 21 of the Medicines and Related Substance Act 101 of 1965 (The Medicines Act).
South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) chief executive Dr Boitumelo Semete said the approval was a result of “the review of updated safety and efficacy information submitted as conditions of the Section 21 initially authorised on March 16, 2021”.
Although the date of the roll-out was still unknown, the deputy director-general of the Department of Health, Dr Nicholas Crisp, hinted that it could be before the end of the year.
Crisp indicated that there were a lot of stakeholders still to be consulted before the final call for the roll-out could be made.
He said those involved in the decision-making process were, among others, the clinical practitioners and scientists in the ministerial advisory committee.
Other stakeholders to be consulted were the departments of Basic Education and Social Development, which in the main work with children.
On the date for the vaccine roll-out, Crisp said: “It is possible that it may be this year, but I don’t want to say conclusively which month or when it might be.”
The imminent move to inoculate teenagers came on the back of the launch of a phase III paediatric Covid-19 vaccine study involving children under the ages of 18 at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences Hospital on Friday. The study is headed by Sinovac and the Numolux Group of Pretoria.
Silverani Padayachee, senior manager for pharmaceutical evaluation at Sahpra, said the decision to authorise the use of vaccines for those in the 12 to 17 age bracket was taken following a submission of information from Pfizer about the safety of vaccination on children of this age.
Padayachee said the doses administered on children would be the same as those given to adults.
According to her, the information at their disposal showed that the side-effects would be more or less the same for young and old. These include pain at the injection site, a bit of swelling, fatigue and headache.
Other countries which have already started vaccinating children are China, France, Israel, the US and Canada.
Crisp, however, said the primary objective of the government was to vaccinate the most vulnerable people in the society. “We still need to get to 30% in other provinces and 40% in other provinces for the vaccinations of the people over the age of 60,” he said.
He also said there were children who were vulnerable and that became evident during the Delta variant that drove the third wave. “Children were more affected than in the previous waves. We clearly don’t know what will happen in the fourth wave but we know it is coming. So it will be important to protect children,” Crisp said.
He said the government was mindful of the fact that it would be required to adjust vaccination protocols given that it would be dealing with minors. “Of course these are minors, and although minor children may take the decision on their own to be vaccinated, usually parents or guardians will be involved in that process; so it is a different ballgame entirely.”
Before vaccination of children could begin, the government had to make sure there were enough vaccines.