Consent for Covid 19 vaccination in Children

01 December 2021 ,  Marié Combrink 46

Definitely a very hot topic and please note this is open to interpretation and each person’s own opinion.  The idea is not to spark a debate but to inform and give knowledge regarding current law.

It is important that parents, guardians, teachers or carers and the adolescent themselves properly understand the current the law relating to this.

Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 years old are now able to get vaccinated at government and private vaccination sites without their parent’s consent.

Of course this has caused a debate about the Children’s Act and the relationship between children’s rights and the parent’s responsibilities and rights. 

The predecessor of the Children's Act was the Child Care Act 74 of 1983. Until the commencement of section 129 of the Children's Act on 1 April 2010, the Child Care Act allowed a person over the age of 14 years to consent to the performance of the medical treatment of himself or herself without the assistance of his or her parent or guardian.

The Child Care Act did not require an assessment of the child's maturity – compliance with the age requirement of 14 years was sufficient. The Children's Act  lowered the age for consent to medical treatment to 12 years, but added a subjective maturity assessment which should be done by the medical healthcare provider/worker.   

The Act provides that a child may consent to his or her own medical treatment or the medical treatment of his or her child if :

  1. the child is over the age of 12 years and
  2. is of sufficient maturity and possesses the mental capacity to understand the benefits, risks, social and other implications of the treatment.

The Children's Act  does not define "medical treatment". However, the concept is interpreted as "non-invasive and innocuous procedures". "Medical treatment" includes vaccinations and psychological treatment. It also includes receiving blood or blood products.

Consent plays a significant role with regards to each and every person’s right to physical and psychological integrity because this allows an individual to make decisions about their body such as receiving the Covid vaccine in this instance.

The healthcare provider or worker has a responsibility and duty to offer support and to give effect to the children’s rights and to provide a service that is in the best interest of any child by doing the following:

  1. Present information about the vaccine to the child in a relevant manner to the child’s age group;
  2. The children have to be allowed to ask questions about the vaccine, potential benefits and risks, including short-and long-term side effects as per directions received from Health department and not subjective;
  3. It is good if the child gives and indication or express any fears or concerns that can be addressed, this can give an indication that it is not just consented to without proper consideration by the child and
  4. The healthcare provider should explore the child’s level of understanding of the risks and benefits of receiving the vaccine in order to establish for themselves the child’s competence to consent to the vaccine.

I hope and trust that children by receiving information regarding the vaccine is made aware of the importance of the process in which they make choices and assist in development and growth by weighing up the risks and benefits and resulting in a positive experience.

Children normally receive other vaccines under the age of 12 without proper explanation or reasons why it is required.

I know of local healthcare providers that take this responsibility very serious and thank them for their contribution to our community.