Forum: Give experts time to evaluate Covid-19 vaccine for kids' use

I refer to the article, "Supply agreement inked with Pfizer for vaccines for children" (Nov 16).

At Monday's press conference by the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung announced that the Government has signed a new supply agreement with Pfizer for vaccines for children aged five to 11.

However, there has not been any formal recommendation by the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination on the safety and suitability of this vaccine for this age group yet.

The KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) has just started recruiting participants for its study to assess how children here respond to Covid-19 vaccination.

Vaccination trials should look critically at the safety of the vaccine for children and flag any adverse outcomes. However, according to Mr Ong, the purpose of this KKH trial is to "smoothen operations" once the roll-out is done at scale.

This makes it sound like the trial is more for operation-planning purposes rather than for studying the suitability of the vaccine for children.

Mr Ong also said the expert committee would make a recommendation on whether to extend the Pfizer vaccine to children aged five to 11 in the second half of this month.

I have several concerns with the timeline and actions already taken by the Government.

If the expert committee has yet to finish reviewing data and come to a conclusion regarding the vaccine for this age group, why has the Government gone ahead to sign a purchase agreement that even includes a delivery timeline for the vaccines?

Knowing that these vaccines have a limited lifespan, is this move to commit to buying the vaccines before our medical and public healthcare experts have been given enough time to properly study the data and make recommendations a prudent one?

Additionally, would knowing that a sum of money has been committed to buying the vaccines prejudice the expert committee members in any way?

If the expert committee has any cause for concern on the safety or suitability of the vaccine, what actions will the Government take with regard to the purchase agreement with Pfizer? Will the Government be able to cancel the order without penalty?

Sarah Lee-Wong Mayfern

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