Should parents be concerned about the Covid-19 vaccination?

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"A lot of information will travel through word of mouth for a lot of people" - Professor Mosa Moshabela. (Marko Geber/Getty Images)
"A lot of information will travel through word of mouth for a lot of people" - Professor Mosa Moshabela. (Marko Geber/Getty Images)

As rumours and conspiracy theories make the rounds online, you may be doubting the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine for both yourself and your children. 

But according to a recent seminar hosted by the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), there's no need to fear. 

Children under 16 will not be given the vaccine, there is still more to be done in evaluating the vaccine's impact during pregnancy and yes you will be expected to complete an e-register following vaccination.

These details along with many others were discussed and confirmed during the session moderated by Dr Thuthula Balfour, Head of Health, Minerals Council South Africa. 

'Understanding the facts about the Covid-19 vaccines'

"Aimed at dissecting the myths and understanding the facts about the Covid-19 vaccines," the seminar saw several experts shed light on what South Africans can expect from the upcoming Covid-19 vaccine rollout. 

Counted among the panelists was Professor Barry Schoub, the founding director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) who currently chairs Health Minister Zweli Mkhize's Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC).  

According to Professor Schoub, at this stage and "simply because the safety hasn't been evaluated properly," pregnant women, breastfeeding women, children, and persons with a known allergy to any of the components of the vaccine, are the only vulnerable groups for whom the vaccine may be harmful. 

"If somebody is known to be allergic to one of the constituents of the vaccine, particularly if they've had a severe allergic response that would be a contraindication… it hasn't been evaluated as yet in children and related to that is pregnancy and also lactation… those are the only contraindications at the moment". 

Regarding those with "a severe allergic propensity," Professor Schoub said, "There has been a directive that if people do have a severe allergic propensity that they do need to alert the medical person giving the vaccine.. There [will be] facilities for severe allergic reactions to the vaccine".

Schoub also added that while much more research is indeed necessary as is the case globally, so far deaths due to the vaccine have been "very rare". 

'Rigorous scrutiny and testing' 

Also in attendance was Prof Doug Wassenaar, Ethicist and fellow MAC member, who assured that South Africa has "an extremely well regulated biomedical and ethics structure". 

"The South African public has the assurance knowing that any product… that reaches the market legally through [the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority] registration has been through really rigorous scrutiny and testing". 

'Vaccinations will not be compulsory'

Fellow panelist and MAC member, Professor Ian Sanne confirmed that "vaccinations will not be compulsory" as previously mentioned by the Minister of Health and that the electronic register the department is planning is "not intended to be a monitoring system". 

"I don't think that anybody should fear there's going to be some sort of monitoring of people through the registration systems".

Professor Mosa Moshabela, Dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health stressed the important role of community groups and organisations "because a lot of information will travel through word of mouth for a lot of people, especially in rural communities," he said. 

In terms of knowledge about the Covid-19 vaccines, Professor Moshabela called for "a much wider societal education programme". 

Are you relieved or concerned that your child won't be getting the Covid-19 vaccination? 

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