As Mzansi learned that a slice of its child population will participate in Sinovac Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine trial, parents reacted with mixed feelings.
South Africa will be one of five countries to participate in the global children’s vaccine trial, China’s Sinovac and its local partner, Numolux, announced on Thursday (9 September).
“The primary objective of the study is to evaluate the efficacy of two doses of CoronaVac against confirmed symptomatic Covid-19 cases in children and adolescents… Efficacy will also be evaluated against hospitalisation and severe Covid-19,” Sinovac and Numolux said in a statement.
Sinovac has provided its CoronaVac vaccine to nearly 50 countries and regions, including mainland China.
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) approved the trial on Thursday.
The first child was to be inoculated in Pretoria on Friday (10 September) at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University.
Parents on the fence
Some 2 000 South African children will be taking part in the trial, with children being aged between six months and 17 years. The children will receive two doses of the vaccine, 28 days apart.
Some parents are eager to get their kids vaxxed.
Russell Bindeman from Kimberley said to Health For Mzansi that getting his family vaccinated is for the greater good. Bindeman is a father to a Grade 9 learner.
“The variants are dangerous. the new variants are attacking children and it is dangerous for them. The converse argument is also true; you are less likely to get the virus when you are vaccinated,” Bindeman said.
“[With] the whole household getting vaccinated, you better your chances. There is no guarantee you won’t get the virus if you are vaccinated, but they say the chances are less,” says Bindeman.
Karabo Itebogeng from Johannesburg is the father of a one-year-old baby and says he will not be taking his infant daughter to get vaccinated.
The intentions of pharmaceutical companies are not to be trusted, he believes.
“I am not even comfortable getting vaccinated; I wouldn’t take my daughter there. Why now, why are they so desperate to achieve this herd immunity?
“We haven’t needed this vaccine and we do not need it. That’s why they are vaccinating kids in a trial; they want to test something.”
Why vaccinate children now?
The news has been well received by the South African Paediatric Association.
“The reason we haven’t started with vaccines for Covid in children is because we know that this disease affects adults more,” explained SAPA ex-officio Professor Mignon McCulloch.
McCulloch was speaking to Newzroom Afrika and said SAPA had already appealed to SAHPRA for all children between 12 and 18 with comorbidities to be the next people in line for the standard vaccine in the country.
“We know with the Delta variant it is much more contagious. Some studies suggest that it is 70% more contagious than the previous variant.
“We are trying to do away with these myths around the vaccine. It is a vaccine it is not overrated; it does not grow horns, it doesn’t give you a 5G chip. We know that these vaccines work and save lives.”
McCulloch said that she understood the anxiety of parents. “This virus has been awful.
“I believe that there are still a lot of people who are still very anxious about this vaccine and often instead of listening to scientific evidence we would rather listen to social media evidence, and that is a big concern.
“If we had unlimited amounts of vaccines, we would absolutely be vaccinating everybody.”
She reassuringly added that studies do not easily pass SAHPRA legislation without being 100% safe.
“There are lots of very strict safety measures being put in place. These kids are going to be followed up for at least a year after they had their vaccine.”
Government aims to vaccinate 70% of Mzansi’s 40 million adults by the festive season.