JUDGING by the number of teenagers trying their luck at getting a Covid-19 vaccine without a prior appointment at vaccination centres (PPV) around the country this past week, there are certainly many eager to get immunised against this infectious disease.
A desire to be able to get back to school for in-person learning and meeting up with friends, as well as other social activities only allowed to the fully vaccinated, are certainly driving forces behind this enthusiasm.
And not forgetting the most important reasons, of course: being safe from developing severe Covid-19, hospitalisation and possible death, as well as a lower chance of both getting and transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
To these anxious teens and parents, we urge patience.
Let us not forget the scenes of overcrowding that occasionally cropped up during the previous phases of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme. We wouldn’t want to accidentally create Covid-19 clusters at PPV when our aim is to prevent the spread of this disease!
The Health Ministry has already stated its aim of inoculating 60% of the 3.2 million 12-to-17-year-olds in Malaysia with at least one vaccine dose by November, and fully immunising at least 80% of this group before school reopens next year.
As of Friday, a total of 696,285 teens have been vaccinated nationwide, with 670,959 having received their first vaccine dose and 25,326 being fully vaccinated.
Deputy Health Minister I Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, who heads the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force – Adolescent (CITF-A), said there will be sufficient vaccines for all Malaysian adolescents.
On Friday, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said his ministry is in talks with a vaccine maker to procure doses for children under 12.
It is definitely encouraging to see so many of our young eager to be vaccinated.
However, just like adults, there are also some teenagers who are wary of getting the vaccine.
It was reported on Aug 30 that three such students lodged a police report to uphold their right to refuse the Covid-19 vaccine.
The main reason given was that they did not wish to risk their life by taking these relatively new vaccines.
It is vital that we provide comprehensive information on Covid-19 and the vaccines to our young and their parents to allay their fears.
While children and teenagers have mostly experienced only asymptomatic to mild Covid-19, there have been those who have gotten seriously ill from the disease and even died from it. This number has significantly increased with the arrival of the highly infectious Delta variant.
Malaysia is not the first country to inoculate teenagers with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The United States alone has already jabbed over 10 million teens aged 12 to 17 to date. Other countries that have also started vaccinating their teenagers include Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Israel and China.
While there is indeed a risk of side effects from the vaccine, most of them are temporary and will resolve on their own.
The most serious, although extremely rare, side effect of this vaccine is myocarditis, which tends to affect young males after the second dose.
Even so, the Health Ministry states that the chances of a person developing myocarditis from Covid-19 is 37 times higher than the risk of myocarditis from the vaccine.
It is imperative we remember that getting the vaccine is not only about protecting yourself, it is about protecting family, friends and the community, especially those who are unable to be vaccinated due to medical reasons and those in whom the vaccine is not as effective due to their compromised immune system.