The Namibian government has encouraged 12 to 17- year-olds to get the Pfizer vaccine, but cautioned officials to get permission from parents before administering the vaccine.
Children between these ages have been encouraged to get vaccinated after a go-ahead by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and following new global scientific developments on the revised age group to get vaccinated with the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.
“On 15 November 2021, the WHO published that the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) concluded that Pfizer/BioNTech is suitable for use by people aged 12 to 17,” health executive director Ben Nangombe stated.
Although Pfizer has been recorded to cause myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that the benefit of the Covid-19 vaccine on the population aged 12 to 17 years outweighs the risks.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle (myocardium). The inflammation can reduce your heart’s ability to pump and cause rapid or abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
Furthermore, the reactions of myocarditis after the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech have been reported to be rare, according to one study after the administration of the Covid-19 vaccine to the teenagers.
Nangombe said based on this available information, those vaccinating the age group under discussion should ensure that consent from parents is obtained before the inoculation process.
“Vaccinators must ensure that a consent form is signed by the parents or guardians before the vaccination. All managers must ensure that all vaccination teams are given refresher training on monitoring adverse events following immunisation (AEFI), with a specific focus on children,” noted Nangombe.
He added that all occurrences of the AEFI should be documented and immediately reported after the established or determined procedures.
The Pfizer vaccine has been given the emergency use authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in children aged five to 11 years.
Nangombe said Namibia then decided to introduce the Covid-19 vaccine to 12 to 17-year-olds, and although the FDA has authorised the five to 11-year-old batch, Namibia opted to focus on the older group.
“This is due to the current vaccination coverage and the need to continue vaccinating more adults who are at risk of severe illness, hospitalisation and death”, explained Nangombe.
He told New Era that the ministry is collecting data to get the figures of how many children had been vaccinated with Pfizer since the implementation of the campaign last week.
Namibia has only fully inoculated 1 185 citizens with Pfizer to date. The CDC further encourages parents to have their children vaccinated as they get very sick from Covid-19, have both short and long-term health complications from the virus, and can spread it to others, including at schools and at home.
The CDC further stated that children who get infected with Covid-19 can also develop serious complications like multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) - a condition where different body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.
Children with underlying medical conditions are more at risk for severe illness from Covid-19, compared to children without underlying medical conditions.