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Getting vaccinated without parental consent is ‘only possible in theory’

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Oct 26, 2021

After the Department of Health confirmed that children between 12 to 17 years old can get vaccinated from 20 October in South Africa, reports suggested that children can get vaccinated in South Africa without the consent of their parents. But, now a new report suggests otherwise.

Getting vaccinated without parental consent. Is it possible?

The South African reported that people aged 12 to 17 do not need their parents’ consent for any medical treatment – which accounts for the COVID-19 vaccine as well, according to the Children’s Act. This means that children between these ages can simply go to any private and public vaccination site and get their Pfizer vaccine.

However, Business Insider South Africa reports that after a week of teenage vaccinations, and discussions about what would happen in situations such as an objection by one parent, it is now clear that a child trying to arrange their own vaccination will, in practice, find it “effectively impossible”.

The publication reports that independent providers would be reluctant to provide the jab to an unaccompanied child, “with the possibility that a vengeful anti-vaccine parent could then nit-pick about the process and procedure followed to test whether the child had properly consented”. News24 reports that in the case where a child, subsequent to consenting and receiving treatment, develops serious health and long-lasting complications, a parent may (depending on the facts and the circumstances) ultimately sue the Department of Health or the relevant practitioner. 

Can home affairs help?

Getting the jab without an unaccompanied parent might not be a child’s only hurdle when receiving the jab on their own. It is also reported that children might struggle to access their birth certificates. According to the Department of Health, children must also register on the national Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) in order to receive their jab. They, therefore, require the applicable “South African ID cards, birth certificate with registration number, foreign passport or any verifiable asylum/refugee proof of identity bearing the name of the child”. 

But, in the case of children obtaining it on their own at home affairs, it was found that “there is no way you are going to have a child walk into the office and a [home affairs official] says ‘I can help you with that ja,” according to one specialist provider who helps to obtain government paperwork.

While it is not clear whether a child even has the theoretical right to obtain a copy of their own birth certificate, officials who help a child ultimately “circumvent the wishes of a parent” and could get in trouble with the law. 

Makhura on vaccinating children

In light of this, Gauteng Premier David Makhura is urging parents to have their children vaccinated.

“I don’t understand why parents should not be involved in the vaccination of their children. Let’s take our children to vaccinate. I am relieved the window has been opened for children to get vaccinated,” said Makhura.

The premier says they are working on a programme that will allow children to be vaccinated at schools.

“We are going to use the schools as sites for vaccination. We are urging parents to consent. We don’t want to work against parents,” Makhura added.

“People need to be convinced it is the right thing to do to get their children vaccinated. We don’t want to do anything by force. As a parent myself, I am very happy. Let’s take the steps to beat this pandemic. We want to encourage vaccination because we want to bring back a level of normality.” 

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