KUCHING: Joy mingled with relief was the order of the day for secondary school students in Sarawak as the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme kicked off for teens aged 16 to 17.
For the students and their parents, getting vaccinated meant being able to return to school safely.
Intan Fatihah Bakar, 16, said she missed school and looked forward to meeting her friends and teachers again.
“My teacher informed me on Monday that I would be getting vaccinated today. I was happy to hear the news, as I cannot wait to go back to school,” she said yesterday.
Intan Fatihah was among 379 students from SMK Sri Matang who received their jabs at the Telaga Air health clinic here yesterday.
Her mother Suhaila Dollah said she was glad that her daughter was now vaccinated.
“I’m thankful that she can go back to school after this. She has been cooped up at home for so long and it’s hard for her to ask questions during online classes.
“Next year, she will be sitting for the SPM exam so it’s better for her to attend classes at school where it will be easier for her to concentrate on her studies,” she said.
Nur Syakinah Masri, 16, who showed up as early as 7am with her father Masri Sakichan, was the first person to receive the vaccine at the clinic.
“I was nervous at first but I’m happy to get the vaccine as I feel safer now. My teachers talked about the importance of getting the vaccine in our online classes,” she said.
Masri said he had no hesitation in giving consent for Nur Syakinah to get vaccinated.
“I explained to her that it’s for her protection and benefit. Now I feel it is safe for her to go back to school,” he said, adding that the process went smoothly.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said Sarawak aimed to fully immunise all adolescents aged 12 to 17 years of age by the end of next month.
He said 96,400 students in the 16 to 17 age group were expected to complete both doses before schools reopen on Oct 3, while 192,800 students aged 12 to 15 years would be fully vaccinated by Oct 22 to 26.
“Teenagers in Sarawak will be vaccinated (first dose) in stages, starting from yesterday until the end of this week.
“For this initial stage, we are targeting those aged 16 to 17 years and those aged 12 to 15 years with comorbidities.
“The vaccination for those aged 12 to 15 years with no health problems is scheduled to start at the end of September, depending on the vaccine supply,” he said after observing the vaccination flow at the Telaga Air health clinic.
Sarawak is the first state to start vaccinating teenagers, with the programme getting underway in Kuching, Sri Aman, Serian, Sarikei and Bintulu yesterday.
“The immunisation programme for teenagers will be carried out in designated vaccination centres (PPV), schools and health clinics.
“Appointments will be made according to the schools and each PPV will receive students from several schools each day,” Abang Johari said, adding that 88.9% of its adult population has been vaccinated.
Students in rural areas, he said, will receive their jabs through outreach programmes by the Health Department.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a tweet that Labuan and the Klang Valley are expected to follow shortly in the vaccinating of teens and that they will receive the Pfizer vaccine.
In Sibu, Form Four student Nathanial Ling was not nervous as she waited for her turn to get the jab at the Civic Centre PPV.
“I am not scared at all as our teacher had given us a lot of advice based on her experience. She told us to be well prepared before we come here, like having breakfast first,” she said.
A parent who wished to be identified as Madam Ting said she had been waiting for a long time for her son, Lau Zheng Cheng, to be jabbed.
“Finally, he will be protected too. Before this, we were always worried that we might bring back the virus and infect him,” she said.
Assistant Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dr Annuar Rapaee, who made a brief inspection of the Civic Centre PPV, said counselling would be provided for those who were hesitant to get vaccinated.
“We will organise counselling programmes for schools and especially parents of students who are vaccine-hesitant.
“After that they can walk in at any PPV for the vaccination,” he said.