Section 27 joins court battle to vaccinate teens against Covid-19



Section 27 has joined the fight in support of the health department’s decision to vaccinate tweens and teens against Covid-19.

The organisation has filed heads of argument with the High Court of South Africa Gauteng Division, in Pretoria supporting the government’s rollout of Covid-19 vaccines for 12- to 17-year-old children.

The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) raised objections against the department’s vaccination rollout plan targeting adolescents.

“Now that schools have reopened fully, it is crucial that the adolescent vaccination programme be permitted to continue so that pupils in overcrowded classrooms are protected from the worst effects of Covid-19,” said the organisation’s Julia Chaskalson.

Section 27 was permitted to make representations on the case as a friend of the court back in February.

“The ACDP’s arguments, based on widely discredited medical opinions, claim that Covid-19 vaccines pose a risk to adolescents. 

“Their evidence has also been refuted on behalf of the National Department of Health by some of South Africa’s foremost medical experts including Professor Salim Abdool Karim,” said Section 27.

Section 27 is also suspicious of the ACDP and their partner’s motives to bring this case before the court. 

The organisation believes that non-pharmaceutical interventions including ventilation and mask-wearing, together with vaccines are crucial to keeping young people safe from Covid-19 outbreaks while at school.

“Any campaign to stop the rollout of vaccines to children puts them – and their human rights – at risk,” said Chaskalson.

The organisation is also arguing that a vaccine rollout will prevent school closures or rotational timetables in future, which have been shown to have disastrous effects on pupils’ educational outcomes and subsequent mental health.

Public schools are faced with infrastructure problems and overcrowding making vaccination of adolescents an equality and discrimination issue. 

“Statistics show that girls are more likely to have been vaccinated against Covid-19 than their male counterparts and that the majority of teen vaccinations have happened in the public sector,” said Chaskalson.

“This means that if the ACDP and their recently formed partners (Free the Children – Save the Nation, Caring Healthcare Workers Coalition and Covid Care Alliance) get their way, the impact of their interdict banning vaccination for teenagers would be disproportionately felt by children who are girls, poor, and attending under-resourced and overcrowded public schools.”

Potential future school closures because of Covid-19 outbreaks would ultimately result in pupils suffering the most, and inequality in the basic education sector would be perpetuated. 

“The ACDP and their partners – who have failed to show how they have any history of working in the best interests of children – seek to deny anyone who does not share their beliefs about vaccination the choice to protect themselves, their children, fellow pupils and school communities,” said Chaskalson.

“We are concerned that ACDP and their partners, then, are not genuinely acting on behalf of best interests of children whom they claim to speak for,” said Chaskalson.

“Section 27 maintains that the constitutional rights of pupils, particularly those in under-resourced state schools, must come above the political ploy on the part of the ACDP and its co-applicants,” Chaskalson concluded.

The case will continue on 28-29 April.

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