News analysis

Vaccines ahead
(File photo by Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
  • Somewhat controversially, children as young as 12 can arrange their own Covid-19 vaccinations.
  • But that is almost purely theoretical it turns out.
  • Those giving the shots say they'd be very loathe to do so without a parent present.
  • And if the kid can't lay their hands on a birth certificate, the department of home affairs is not about to help.
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Children between 12 and 18 are now not only eligible to receive a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine but can explicitly get themselves vaccinated with or without the consent of their parents.

But 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.

Independent providers say they would be reluctant to provide a vaccination 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. Nobody wants to be the test case who faces a damages claim or complaint before a professional body.

But it turns out that is not the major hurdle children face. They are more likely to be unable to arrange a vaccine shot because the government won't help them do so.

As with adults, children must be registered on the national Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) in order to receive a jab. To confirm their identity for the purposes of that system, they require "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". 

For the largest section of the eligible group, that will mean a birth certificate. And if the child can't lay their hands on a birth certificate presumably safely guarded by a parent or guardian?

"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" one specialist provider of help obtaining government paperwork told Business Insider South Africa.

It is not clear whether a child even has the theoretical right to obtain a copy of their own birth certificate. The department of home affairs refused to answer questions on the issue, instead referring all questions – including on the mechanics of how it issues copies of birth certificates – to the department of health.

But those who deal with home affairs offices every day say that, much like nurses and doctors, an official who helps a child circumvent the wishes of a parent could get in trouble. Those who refuse to do anything at all face no repercussions.

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