Covid-19 vaccination for kids aged 4 and below to be ready around year end: MOH

The move comes after two children aged up to four were reported to have died from Covid-19 over the past two months. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Covid-19 vaccination for children aged between six months and four years will likely be ready towards the fourth quarter of this year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Monday (July 25).

"MOH is currently doing the necessary preparation to roll out Covid-19 vaccines for young children aged between six months and four years old. We aim to have it ready towards the fourth quarter of the year," said a spokesman for the ministry.

This comes after two children aged up to four were reported to have died from Covid-19 over the past two months.

On June 27, MOH said a 1½-year-old boy with no past medical history and who was previously well had become the first coronavirus death in a patient aged under 12 in Singapore.

On July 17, a four-year-old girl died from the disease as well. She, too, had no past medical history and had initially tested negative on Covid-19 antigen rapid tests.

MOH said the rate at which children aged four and below are dying because of Covid-19 is comparable to other infectious diseases, such as pneumonia and influenza.

As at July 23, there were two Covid-19 deaths among children aged up to four, said MOH.

"This translates to three deaths per 100,000 cases (for children aged up to four), compared to 99 deaths per 100,000 cases for the 40 and above age group this year," added the ministry.

MOH said that before Covid-19, in 2018 and 2019, it recorded 3.1 deaths of children aged up to four per 100,000 people in a year from pneumonia and influenza.

"We have used 2018 and 2019 as a comparison as the public health measures rolled out during the Covid-19 pandemic have significantly reduced the numbers for pneumonia and influenza."

Children aged up to four are much more resilient than older patients, but more vulnerable compared to older children and young adults, MOH added.

Of the 1.7 million Covid-19 cases reported since the start of the pandemic, about 64,000, or 3.9 per cent, were children under five years old, MOH said.

It said the large majority of these 64,000 children recover uneventfully at home, with 0.022 per cent requiring oxygen supplementation or hospitalised in the intensive care unit (ICU).

In comparison, 0.17 per cent of patients in the 40 and above age group require ICU care.

The incidence rate of ICU care among those in the age group between five and 39 is almost negligible, MOH added.

The ministry said: "There is currently no clear evidence that Omicron variants cause more severe disease."

Severe cases among those aged four and below have been lower at 12 per 100,000 cases in 2022 compared with 41 per 100,000 cases last year, it noted.

News that the Covid-19 vaccine is likely to be rolled out for young children soon was welcomed by recruiter Evonne Ouyang, 32, whose son was born during the pandemic and will turn two next month.

“It will probably give me more peace of mind for him to go out and interact with others, especially since I’ve tried not to take him to crowded areas and delayed enrolling him in pre-school because of Covid-19."

She said the recent child deaths have encouraged her to get her son vaccinated.

Others like Ms Sheena Gow, 34, prefers to wait for more data to be released before deciding whether to let her daughters – aged eight months and three years – receive the vaccination.

“I’d prefer to see the data about its safety to assess whether the risks of severe side effects outweigh the benefits,” said the clinical research nurse, who is currently recovering from Covid-19. 

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