PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - With 67 children dying due to Covid-19 this year compared to six deaths in 2020, the Malaysian Health Ministry aims to complete Covid-19 inoculation for 80 per cent of eligible children before school reopens in 2022.
Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said the statistics showing an increasing trend of infections in children below 18 years old was worrying, while the sharp rise in deaths among this age group was also of concern.
Thus, the Health Ministry aims to ensure that 60 per cent of adolescents aged between 12 and 17 will get at least one dose of the vaccine by November 2021, he said.
The ministry also aims for 80 per cent of those who are eligible to be completely vaccinated before school opens for the 2022 session, he said.
"The statistics showing an increasing trend of infections among children (0 to 18 years old) in Malaysia is worrying.
"Also of concern are the death statistics, where 67 deaths among children have been reported in 2021 up to Sept 19, compared to six deaths in 2020," he said in a statement on Monday (Sept 20).
Tan Sri Noor Hisham said that with the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme for teenagers having kicked off on Monday, the Health Ministry is targeting vaccinations for children in the adolescent group aged between 12 and 17, in preparation for a safe return to school.
"This effort is to ensure the risk of infection in schools can be reduced, and in turn prevent the occurrence of cases and clusters in schools.
"The Drug Control Authority (DCA) has given conditional approval for all adolescents aged 12 years and above to be vaccinated.
"Accordingly, parents and guardians are advised to register their eligible children through their respective educational institutions and through the MySejahtera app immediately," he said, referring to the mobile app developed by the Malaysian government to facilitate contact tracing during the pandemic.
Dr Noor Hisham advised parents and caregivers to look out for side effects among the young ones following their jabs, saying that like other medicines, the Covid-19 vaccine also comes with side effects, but that they are usually mild and self-limiting.
Things to look out for include possible pain and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, chills and fever; as well as inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) and pericarditis, although these are very rare.
He said that myocarditis and pericarditis would usually occur after receiving the second dose; or a few days after vaccination and that these incidents are more common in male children.
"However, the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis is lower than the risk for heart inflammation caused by Covid-19, which is 37 times higher.
"Parents need to monitor for early symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing and rapid heartbeat after the child has received the vaccination.
"Supervision should also be done so that the children do not engage in strenuous activities within a week after vaccination," he said.
Dr Noor Hisham advised parents and guardians with questions about the immunisation for adolescents to consult a paediatrician or a qualified medical officer.
To ensure the success of the national Covid-19 vaccine drive for adolescents, he said that the Health Ministry is also seeking cooperation from various parties especially the Education Ministry, Defence Ministry, the Islamic Development Department (Jakim), Immigration Department, Prisons Department, Welfare Department, as well as the National Anti-Drug Agency (AADK).
"The country's success in combating this Covid-19 pandemic hinges not only on government efforts and strategies, but also needs support as well as strong cooperation from all walks of life.
"Each of the parties must play their respective roles. Even with comprehensive vaccination coverage in the future, the public must always adhere to existing standard operating procedures (SOP) and new norms so that the economic and social sectors in the country can reopen safely," he said.