Johannesburg – Health Minister Joe Phaahla has said there is no Covid-19 vaccine that is approved for use in South Africa on children aged below 12 years.
Phaahla noted that trials on young children had been completed for two inactivated vaccines, Sinovac-CoronaVac and BBIBP-CorV, which had been approved by Chinese authorities for use on children aged between three and 17 years.
“Although these vaccines have received emergency use approval from the World Health Organization (WHO) for adults, they have to date not been approved by WHO for use in children,” he said.
The minister made the statement when responding in writing to parliamentary questions from EFF MP Susan Thembekwayo, who asked about recommendations made for children under the age of five to receive Covid-19 vaccination .
There have been reports that the Omicron variant affects this age group of children the most.
Phaahla said several additional Covid-19 vaccines were undergoing trials on young children, including those as young as six months.
“Results from these trials are expected in late 2021 or early in 2022, and it is likely that the manufacturers will then apply for regulatory approval for the vaccines to be administered to children under five years of age,” he said.
“Decisions to vaccinate young children in South Africa will require approval by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, and will be guided by recommendations of the Vaccine Ministerial Advisory Committee.”
The minister said while initial Covid-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant included a large proportion of children aged under five years, this pattern had changed with more cases now being seen in adults.
“The incidence and severity of disease in young children is being carefully monitored in order to understand the impact of the new variant on young children,” Phaahla said.
“Caregivers should protect young children from Covid infection by ensuring that all household members and other close contacts, who are eligible to be vaccinated, are fully vaccinated, and that standard Covid prevention practices are followed at all times.”
On Tuesday, it was reported that KwaZulu-Natal was calling on younger people to come forward for their Covid-19 vaccinations.
Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu reportedly said the provincial government was worried about the increase in the number of children testing positive for Covid-19.
"There is a remarkable number of children below 14 years in the new cases that we have registered from the past week or so," Simelane-Zulu was quoted as saying.
South Africa has extended Covid-19 vaccination to adolescents aged between 12 and 17 years.
This age group made up 14.7% of new Covid-19 cases reported in the week of 10-16 October, down from a peak of about 20% in the middle of the third resurgence of infections.
Children are only given the Pfizer Cominarty vaccine, and only receive a single dose as opposed to the two doses administered to adults.