IT is good news that the Health Ministry has announced that the vaccination for kids aged five to 12 will start on Feb 3.
The rollout of the vaccine programme for children will begin after the more than six million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine the government has procured arrive in Malaysia at the end of this month.
Although it is not mandatory, vaccination for children in this age group is essential and urgent. This is because they are more at risk of getting severe Covid-19, including being placed in intensive care units.
In Malaysia, as of 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.
Therefore, vaccination for children in this age group is necessary not only to reduce their chances of getting infected but also to minimise their risk of developing severe infections and hospitalisation.
It is equally vital to prevent potential Long Covid complications for those who catch the virus. Long Covid is a post-Covid-19 syndrome where symptoms such as persistent fatigue, breathlessness and brain fog continue or develop long after one has recovered from the infection.
Malaysia is not the only country in the world to admnister Covid-19 vaccines to children in this age group. Fourteen other countries, including Singapore, the United States and China, have also approved such vaccinations.
The danger of Covid-19 infection among children is very real, and in countries with poor vaccine coverage, the rate of children being treated for such infection is very high.
Therefore, parents should not take any chances. Send your kids, who are vulnerable to exposure to the coronavirus through direct contact with you, at playschool or in the community, for this jab.
It is understandable if parents are worried or fearful about getting their little ones vaccinated.
However, they can be reassured that vaccination has been proven safe for the children. A lot of studies show the vaccine to be safe for them.
The World Health Organisation has also recommended the use of the Pfizer vaccine, albeit at a reduced dosage, for children aged five to 11.
According to Singapore Health Sciences Authority (HSA), no serious adverse events have been reported in children aged five to 11 who had taken the Covid-19 vaccine since Dec 27.
The studies by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) meanwhile reported that cardiac complications from mRna vaccines were very rare, with four to seven incidents in 100,000 adolescents.Community health expert Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia also said the rate of cardiac complications from vaccination is lower compared to when the child-adolescent is infected with Covid-19 – it is estimated that 5,500 in 100,000 children will experience complications with severe cardiac disease within three months of infection.
This, she said, was more severe and would require more extensive management than post-vaccination complications.
The government must ensure the right information reaches parents to allay any fears that they may have.
Ultimately, as the custodian of children in this cohort, parents must ensure they stay safe by getting them vaccinated quickly.
The threat of Covid-19, with the fast spreading virus and its new variant Omicron, is real and deadly.