askST: How can I get my young child vaccinated against Covid-19?

Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine and Moderna’s Spikevax vaccine have been approved for children below five. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE – From Oct 25, children here aged between six months and four years will, for the first time, be eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations.

The Health Sciences Authority approved both Moderna’s Spikevax vaccine and Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine for use in young children below five in recent months.

What should parents know before they get their young children vaccinated against Covid-19? The Straits Times asked infectious disease experts to find out.

Q: Are the Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for children below five?

A: No. The Ministry of Health (MOH) has accepted the recommendation of the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination that children aged six months and above be inoculated against the coronavirus.

However, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has said there are no plans to include Covid-19 shots as part of the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule, which includes compulsory vaccinations against measles and diphtheria.

Q: How can I get my child vaccinated and how many doses will he or she need?

A: From Tuesday, parents and guardians can register their interest in getting Moderna’s Spikevax vaccine for their child at this website, child.vaccine.gov.sg.

In those aged six months to five years, the Moderna vaccine is given in two doses of 25 micrograms each, administered at least eight weeks apart.

The Pfizer vaccine is a three-dose vaccine for children aged six months to four years, with the first two doses given three weeks apart and a third dose at least eight weeks after the second. It is expected to be available in Singapore by the end of the year.

Q: Are the vaccines safe for such young children?

A: Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said studies on the use of Pfizer’s vaccine in more than 10,000 children in different countries have shown no significant side effects.

There have also been no reports of serious adverse effects on children in the United States, where the Food and Drug Administration has approved both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for use in children aged six months and above since June.

In posts on his social media accounts, Mr Ong said common vaccination side effects such as fatigue and headaches were less common in children than among adults, and usually subsided within a few days.

Q: Should I get my six-month-old baby vaccinated as soon as possible?

A: Yes, if your baby has a compromised immune system or a medical condition, said Professor Paul Tambyah, president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology.

For other infants under the age of one, he suggested parents talk it over with their paediatrician to weigh the risks and benefits of getting vaccinated.

Q: What is the best age for young children to be vaccinated against Covid-19?

A: While there is no optimal age, Dr Leong said children should be vaccinated as soon as possible to minimise the risk of infection and severe illness.

He said studies have shown that vaccination can also reduce the risk of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)– a rare condition that affects some children in the weeks following a Covid-19 infection.

Vaccinating young children will also help minimise transmission among family members, he added.

Q: Should young children have one of the current vaccines, or wait for one which is more effective against new variants?

A: “In a perfect world, you would want the vaccine to match the current strain,” said Dr Leong.

However, the development of vaccines is always behind the strain which is circulating, he added, and determining their safety for children often comes only after they are approved for adults.

Dr Leong noted the trials for the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children were conducted while the Omicron variant was already circulating, and were shown to reduce infections and hospitalisations despite the vaccine not being developed specifically against the variant.

Q: Should children who have already had Covid-19 still be vaccinated?

A: According to the MOH website, children aged between six months and 11 years who were not vaccinated or only partially vaccinated before recovering from a Covid-19 infection should receive a single dose of an mRNA vaccine at least three months after the date of their infection.

Those who have an official record of their infection will be considered fully vaccinated after a single shot, while those without an official record will need to complete the mRNA vaccine regimen to be considered fully vaccinated.

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