I have some concerns an a whole pile of questions around the Covid 19 vaccination roll out in South Africa. as it affects Child and Youth Care.
On February 1st 2021, the President outlined the vaccine roll-out. First, Health Care Workers, then essential service workers, then the aged and persons with underlying conditions. Then the adults of the Nation. No mention of children at all. There is this so called scientific evidence that children are at low risk.
Firstly. Child and youth care workers are legally essential service providers. Never, never have I heard the President in all his now many addresses to the Nation, nor anyone in high authority mention child and youth care workers as essential service workers.
The question, then is, Are they to get priority vaccinations? We have lost child and youth care workers to Covid 19 and the new variant.
In social media I saw that some child and youth care workers are saying quite forcefully that as their constitutional right, they won't accept vaccination. I must say that I have adopted something of a 'wait and see' approach to this. At my age I have some concerns about the after effects. We are assured in South Africa that the vaccination is effective and safe. So where are we?
It's a consideration that child and youth care workers work in close proximity with young adults and children and then go home to their own families. That proximity is not easily controlled as, for example, in a school. They don't sit at desks. In the residential facilities, social distancing between child and child and child and child care worker is particularly difficult, if not well nigh impossible. I see child and youth care workers saying that it is a constant battle to have children wear a mask or keep some type of distancing. In my experience, child care facilities are most likely high risk spaces. Many children and young people go home or to hosts for weekends and holidays. Who knows what precautions are taken there?
And the children? Did the 'people tests' of the vaccine also include children? What were the results? Are they to be excluded altogether? At what age will a young person, then, be considered eligible for the vaccination roll-out? This raises the question of constitutional rights of children. Will or is there a constitutional or regulatory age at which a child or young person can refuse a vaccination or that the parent, guardian or custodian can do that?
Again, are there, or is there to be a child friendly vaccine? On admission to a child and youth care facility, we had to have a clinic card which showed that children had up to date vaccinations against small-pox, diphtheria, polio and so on. With Covid 19 will we soon as child and youth care workers have to check for evidence of such a vaccination as well?
In South Africa there is continuous and vocal debate as to whether it is safe or right that teachers go back to school, even now. Child and youth care workers have not been so debated. Obviously because there can't be debate. Like health care workers there simply is no choice.
From experience this isn't any fun and certainly not easy. An epidemic of chicken pox in the facility was, on a smaller scale a learning experience. In brief...cut-off, no entry by anybody , food delivered only to the gate and very very, controlled movement of child and youth care workers. Some shift workers had to find a spare bed. Now with a vaccine, at least for adults this could be easier.
Child and youth care practice changes in both community settings and others.We learnt from the Hiv-AIDS pandemic. As with precautionary measures and as with ARV's and now with the Covid vaccine, it meant programmes of family education with the children as the central focus. Programmes that dispel fears, enlighten about the vaccine.
So what then, as child and youth care workers, we have our own fears of the vaccination? As I said, I saw such fears spoken out on social media?
When being trained as a Life-line counsellor and later being a Life-line trainer, we were always told. If they say " I'm going to...or, I'm not going to" and it has the potential of risk or harm to self or others, you say "Yes, it is a choice, but let's together think about what can be the outcomes, the consequences of doing that, or not doing that."
The most likely 'to do or won't do today will be to get vaccinated or not to be vaccinated..to go to school, or not to go to school?... that is the question. For the family one exercise, for child and youth care workers another...and what if there is, or will be a vaccination for children?