Extra days given but minimal increase in vaxxed children

Slow response: According to the CovidNow website, only 49.1% of Malaysian children aged five to 11 have received the first dose while 37.1% have received the second dose. — Filepic

GEORGE TOWN: Despite an extra five days given to parents, the increase in number of children vaccinated against Covid-19 here went up by only 0.06%.

According to an infographic by the Health Ministry, this increase took place on the first extra four days of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme for Children (PICKids), which ended yesterday.

There were only 397 children aged between five and 11 vaccinated on June 20, the number increased to 872 on June 22 and it went up to 1,771 on Thursday.

PICKids was reopened for five days – from Monday to yesterday – to mark the 2022 National Immunisation Week on June 16.

The programme was initially slated to end on May 15 but was extended to May 31.

ProtectHealth Corporation chief executive officer Datuk Dr Anas Alam Faizli encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated because they are at risk of developing multisystem inflammatory syndrome as a post-infection complication of the disease.

“Many children have symptoms resembling toxic shock syndrome or Kawasaki disease, in which the coronary arteries become enlarged or form aneurysms.

“Also common are heart inflammation with impaired heart function and low blood pressure, rash or red eyes, and gastrointestinal symptoms,” he said.

Universiti Sains Malaysia virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Das pointed out that parents typically ask two questions: do kids really need the vaccine and will there be any side effects if their kids got vaccinated?

“In the early days of the pandemic, there were fewer cases of kids being infected.

“However, the situation changed especially when the Omicron variant started circulating.

“Now, kids below 12 make up between 7% and 15% of cases daily.

“Assuming we have 2,000 cases daily, that is up to 300 kids getting infected.

“Vaccines help kids avoid severe symptoms and prevent kids from infecting others,” she added.

Just like adults, Kumitaa said the safety and efficacy of vaccines were evaluated in close to 5,000 children for two months.

“The dosage for kids is also lower than that of an adult.

“If anything, there was more scrutiny before the vaccine was approved for kids.

“With more transmissible variants in the country now – BA.5 and BA.2.12.1 – vaccination plays a huge role in keeping everyone safe and preventing cases from spiking to what we saw at its peak,” she said.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow urged parents to bring their children for their shots as soon as possible.

Although the extra five days of PICKids ended yesterday, he said the shots were still available at private hospitals, private clinics, health clinics and even mobile teams that go to schools.

He added that the state Health Department and district health offices were frequently holding public information sessions with many groups involved in community outreach.

Chow said that 13 public health clinics in Penang still offer vaccination for children by appointment.

A check on the CovidNow website showed that only 49.1% of Malaysian children aged five to 11 have received the first dose while 37.1% have received the second dose.

As of yesterday, 53% of eligible children in Penang received the first dose while 44% received the second.

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