Malaysia to start vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 from end of January: Khairy

People waiting for a walk-in booster dose at a vaccination centre in Subang Parade. PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia will start vaccinating children aged between five and 11 beginning the end of January, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said, as the country prepares to transition from the pandemic phase to the endemic phase of Covid-19.

"In terms of preparing for us to enter the endemic era, we already have powerful tools in the form of vaccines. Malaysia is among the leading nations in administering the booster jabs," he said in his 2022 New Year message for his ministry.

The Health Ministry had on Jan 6 said that Malaysia had granted conditional approval for the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged five to 11.

Mr Khairy had also said previously that Pfizer-BioNTech was the only coronavirus vaccine indicated for children in that age group. He also noted that the government would acquire treatment options for Covid-19 that could be used to bring the country towards endemicity.

More and more countries have started vaccinating children because they are seen as unwitting transmitters of the virus to high-risk people, experts have said.

Indonesia started inoculating primary school pupils aged six to 11 on Dec 14 last year, while Singapore started vaccinating children aged five to 11 on Dec 27.

China was among the first in Asia to administer shots to children aged three and above last year. Cambodia also gave its first vaccines for young children in September.

According to Malaysia's data aggregator CovidNow, children aged five to 11 had made up about 10 per cent of of the country's Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, compared with 3 per cent to 6 per cent among children in other age groups.

Meanwhile, Mr Khairy also said in his New Year message delivered on Thursday (Jan 13) that quarantine periods for Covid-19 patients would now vary based on their vaccination status and if they are showing symptoms, adding that those who are symptomatic or have not received their second dose of a vaccine must undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine.

For asymptomatic patients who have received two doses of vaccine but have not received their booster shot, the quarantine is seven days, he said.

For close contacts who have been fully vaccinated but have not received their booster shot, are not fully vaccinated or unvaccinated, they must undergo quarantine for seven days.

"Close contacts who are symptomatic must undergo the RTK-Ag (antigen rapid test) Covid-19 screening test, self-test or go to the nearest health facility to get further treatment," he said in a statement.

Mr Khairy said all new isolation and quarantine procedures will be effective from Sunday (Jan 16) and will also be applicable to those who are already undergoing isolation and quarantine.

He explained that the new ruling was made after the Health Ministry re-evaluated the surveillance and observation period based on data, science and experiences from other countries relating to the management of positive Covid-19 cases and close contacts of confirmed cases.

He said existing procedures for the management of travellers to Malaysia are still applicable, adding that the ministry had also stepped up the preparedness of the health service system to face the possibility of a rise in cases caused by the Omicron variant.

This year, he said, the country will likely see the end of the Covid-19 pandemic phase and enter the endemic phase.

"Again, the caveat is that we don't know how the virus will mutate but all things being equal, we must work hard to switch to endemicity this year," he said.

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