Do South African parents have to vaccinate their children?
Vaccines are incredibly effective in preventing disease, yet some parents worry that these shots may be dangerous.
There is currently no legal requirement to vaccinate your child if you live in South Africa. You may, however, have a hard time getting your children into school if they haven’t had their immunisations. Most South African schools (state and private) ask for proof of immunisation when you enroll your kids.
But even if you choose to home school your children, it is still important that they get vaccinated. Every parent has a responsibility to keep their children and their community free of dangerous diseases such as polio and measles. Those who aren’t immunised, increase the risk that they and others in their community will get the diseases the vaccines help to prevent.
In South Africa, certain vaccines are provided free of charge at state facilities. The first vaccinations are given at birth (polio and the BCG anti-tuberculosis vaccine). More vaccines then follow at 6, 10 and 14 weeks, at 9 and 18 months of age, and at the age of 6 and 12. The essential ones are offered free as part of the government programme. Parents can opt to pay for the others.
Are vaccines safe?
Yes, vaccines are generally safe to use. Every licensed and recommended vaccine goes through years of safety testing.
The study that was published in 1998 linking the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine to autism has been debunked numerous times. The Nemours Foundation on Kidshealth.org reported that the research used in that study was found to be false. In addition, the doctor who wrote it, lost his medical license. And lastly, the medical journal that published it, retracted the paper (this means that they believe it never should have been published).
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , vaccines help to develop a child’s immunity by imitating an infection. This “imitation” infection doesn’t cause illness. Instead, it causes the immune system to develop the same response as it does to a real infection so the body can recognise and fight the vaccine-preventable disease in the future.
Sometimes, after getting a vaccine, the imitation infection can cause minor symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal, says the CDC, and shouldn’t cause concern.
Ready to take your children for their shots?
Check with your doctor and/or clinic nurse about the vaccines that are recommended for your children. Also speak to them about the Expanded Programme on Immunisation – EPI (SA).
And remember that you can get your child immunised for free at your nearest state clinic or community health centre.
By Carine Visagie
The Content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.