Covid-19: Vaccinate higher-risk groups first before children aged 12 and above, says doctor

PETALING JAYA: Those aged 12 and above should be vaccinated to control the spread of Covid-19 in the country, but not before those who are more vulnerable to the disease get their jabs first, says a senior consultant paediatrician.

Datuk Dr Amar Singh HSS said although children should not be subject to mass vaccination, this step could be needed eventually.

"It is imperative that we push for those at highest risk to be vaccinated first before we vaccinate children.

"It is also vital to vaccinate young adults who are working and mobile as they are important drivers of the economy.

"The recovery of our nation from Covid-19 means the recovery of our children from the mental strain that impacts them daily as lives are 'on pause' and vaccination is an important measure to return our life to normal," he said on Tuesday (June 22).

Dr Amar said children generally do not suffer severe symptoms but the devastation Covid-19 has on adults – especially those who are elderly or have chronic illnesses – are apparent.

"We also recognise that children can and do spread Covid-19 to adults," he said.

Dr Amar said achieving herd immunity would be difficult without vaccinating children, noting that approximately 30% of the Malaysian population are under 18.

"We will not be able to reach sufficient rates of Covid-19 vaccination in the population without vaccinating children aged 12 to 17 years," he said.

Dr Amar, however, said that adults should be vaccinated first.

"This includes the elderly, those with chronic illness, younger adults who comprise our workforce and migrant workers.

"However, we should consider selectively vaccinating children with severe disabilities in residential care, especially if at high risk of exposure to Covid-19," he said.

However, Dr Amar said the issue of global Covid-19 vaccine supply should not be ignored as well.

"Using the vaccines for children in wealthier nations... limits access to poorer nations.

"The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged affluent nations to reconsider vaccinating children or adolescents and donate vaccines to low- and lower-middle-income countries where supply has been insufficient to immunise even healthcare staff," he said.

Facebook user Prashanthi Naidu said she was able to see the option to register her children after updating her MySejahtera app.

Another user, Ain Soraya Ridzuan, said her two sons aged 14 and 17 managed to register on their own MySejahtera app and she did not have to register them as her dependants.

Lily Samuel questioned the rush to register children when there are still grandparents and parents still waiting for their vaccination.

Mok Kam Cheong, noted it was just the registration process and the actual vaccinations would be done later.

Nafiz Rashid also said senior citizens should be vaccinated first followed by other age groups, with children being the last.

Vern Chia Pang, said people should "be registered first" and "wait for the appointment".

Chua Cher Win, aged 15, said he managed to register himself for vaccination using the MySejahtera app in late February.

The move to immunise children and teenagers comes after the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency's (NPRA) approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12 and above.

It is also in line with the fifth phase of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme to begin immunising those in that age group by August.

On Monday (June 21), vaccination coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Supply (JKJAV) will meet this week to fine-tune the process of vaccinating children aged 12 and above with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

A number of nations have also approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine predominantly in those aged 12 years and older, such as the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, China, Singapore and Japan.

The announcement has generated mixed reactions from Malaysians, who are generally supportive of the idea provided that the high risk and vulnerable groups have been vaccinated.

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