Parents urged to understand benefits of vaccination for kids

PETALING JAYA: Parents must understand the benefits of Covid-19 vaccination for their children, say health experts.

Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said as children were exposed to infection through their parents, teachers and schoolmates, the vaccination could help reduce the risk of them getting infected, or developing severe infections and hospitalisation.

“We have seen an increase in children infected with Covid-19, with some requiring hospital admissions in states with poor vaccine coverage,” she said.

The community health professor said complications among children infected with Covid-19 were higher than severe complications from Covid-19 vaccination.

She said studies such as from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that cardiac complications from mRna vaccines were very rare, with four to seven incidents in 100,000 adolescents.

“This rate is lower than if the child-adolescent is infected with Covid-19, where an estimated 5,500 in 100,000 children will experience complications with severe cardiac disease within three months, which is more severe and require more extensive management than complications from vaccination,” she said.

As at Jan 15, a total of 376,415 Covid-19 cases or 13.4% of the total Covid-19 cases in Malaysia involved children below 12.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced yesterday that Covid-19 vaccination for children aged between five and 11 will begin at the end of the month, with the Drug Control Authority having granted conditional registration approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be used for such children.

Besides Malaysia, at least 14 countries have approved Covid-19 vaccination for children aged below 12, including Singapore, the United States and China.

A review by the CDC on Covid-19 vaccine safety in children aged five to 11 years in the United States found that serious adverse events from vaccination were rarely reported.

The report stated that 8.7 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine were administered to children in that age group between Nov 3-Dec 19, 2021, with the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) receiving 4,249 reports of adverse events after the vaccination.

However, it said 4,149 (97.6%) cases were not serious.

Universiti Putra Malaysia epidemiologist Assoc Prof Dr Malina Osman said that Covid-19 vaccination for children in the 5-11 year age group was necessary as there were significant cases of such children being infected with “Long Covid”.

“Updated information related to complications of Covid infection particularly on Long Covid are quite prominent among children and this has a significant impact on their long-term healthcare and education.

“The vaccination will not only reduce risk of infection and severity of infection but is proven to prevent potential Long Covid complications,” she said.

The term “Long Covid” is commonly used to describe the post-Covid-19 syndrome where symptoms such as persistent fatigue, breathlessness and brain fog continue or develop long after one has recovered from the disease.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Koh Kar Chai said the Health Ministry needs to highlight the safety profile of Covid-19 vaccines, as a large number of teenagers have received the vaccine without any serious adverse effects.

“Our public and private sector facilities have trained staff members to address acute adverse effects like fever and allergic reactions,” he said adding that the ministry also had a robust mechanism to capture adverse effects following vaccination.

Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar, who heads volunteers for community engagement and empowerment for Covid-19, said parents who get their children vaccinated can have peace of mind while they are in school or when they have to bring their children out.

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