PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia will prioritise vaccinating only children with underlying health conditions first, amid reports of a rare side-effect of myocarditis or heart inflammation among adolescents who received the Pfizer vaccine.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said children who are healthier will get their turn after the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme completes its third phase of vaccinating adults.
“Adolescents who are at a higher risk of severe Covid-19 due to chronic underlying medical conditions may benefit from the Pfizer vaccine.
“Healthy adolescents without underlying medical conditions who are at very low risk of serious Covid-19 may be offered vaccination but at a later stage.
“This takes into consideration results of an ongoing clinical trial using a lower dosage of the Pfizer vaccine in children as well as real-world safety data,” Dr Adham said at the weekly Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force press conference here on Monday (July 5).
Dr Adham said examples of children with underlying health conditions include those with cancer, chronic lung disease, heart disease and diabetes.
Real-world safety data from several countries involving millions of adolescents shows that there is a low risk of myocarditis in adolescents who take the Pfizer vaccine, he added.
Dr Adham said the US Food and Drug Administration had issued a warning of a rare risk of heart inflammation among juvenile receivers of the Pfizer vaccine, occurring in one in 15,000, or 66.7 per million, of those in the 12-17 years age group,
“This rare side-effect seems to affect male adolescents and young adults more than females and other age groups.
“This compares to a risk of two per million of a child below 18 years dying from serious Covid-19 in Malaysia,” he said.
Dr Adham said in Malaysia, Covid-19-related death among adolescents is very uncommon, accounting to less than 1% of fatal cases.
Those who were infected and developed severe illness are also rare.
“As of June 29, 116,378 children were confirmed Covid-19 positive in Malaysia. Of those, 37,205 were aged between 13 and 17 years.
“Although children accounted for 15% of total Covid-19 cases, they tend to be asymptomatic or have milder symptoms and are less likely to develop severe illness,” Dr Adham said.
So far, the Comirnaty vaccine by Pfizer-Biontech is the only Covid-19 vaccine that has been approved by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) for use on children aged 12 years and above in Malaysia.
Under the national immunisation programme, the vaccination plan for adolescents and children will start with those sitting for the SPM examination.