Most state laws presume that minors lack medical decision-making capacity and therefore require parental consent for most health care decisions, including vaccination. This might not be the case in South Africa’s latest decision to include children in the vaccine rollout.
Some parents have reacted with concern to the Health Minister’s announcement that children between the ages of 12 and 17 years will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination without parental consent.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced on Friday morning that the decision was made following a recommendation from the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on vaccinations. Some parents say government it is not fair for government to dictate that parental consent is not needed in the decision to vaccinate their children.
It will be a problem when the child comes home sick from vaccine after parent’s consent was not needed.
Nomatter Masikati, who is a parent to a minor, said the government is wrong for not letting parents make the decision on behalf of their children.
Parents know best about their kids and take responsibility for everything that their kids go through, said Masikati.
Acting Deputy General in the Health Department, Dr Nicholas Crisp, says the Children’s Act makes provision for children to get vaccinated without parental consent.
He said the Children’s Act makes provisions for children from the age of 12 to 17 years, in other words, not yet an adult to give their own consent for medical treatment. There are provisions, sub-clauses of the Children’s Act, that explain which children can get consent for what.
Dr Crisp is adamant that children do not need their parents’ consent generally for any medical treatment and there are specific guidelines for that, but parents can give consent for their children to get vaccinated.
The government’s announcement follows the approval of the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children over 12 years by the South African Health Product Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) last month.
And although there have been recorded cases of heart inflammation in adolescents after a second dose around the world, the South African government has assured parents and children that it poses no ongoing risk. Some experts have however warned the government against allowing minors to vaccinate without their parent’s consent.