SINGAPORE - Covid-19 vaccination for children aged five to 11 will begin next Monday (Dec 27), with bookings opening from Wednesday - first for Primary 4 to 6 pupils.
The vaccination exercise for more than 300,000 children will be done across 15 paediatric centres, which will be rolled out in batches.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) announced on Tuesday (Dec 21) details for the vaccination programme, which will be open to all children who are Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders.
Older children will go first, starting with Primary 4 to Primary 6 pupils attending MOE schools next year. About 110,000 SMS invitations will be sent on Wednesday to their parents to book appointments. The text messages will include a unique link to book a vaccination appointment.
From next Monday, parents of all other children born between 2009 and 2012, and who are not in MOE schools, can register their interest for the vaccination. They can do so at the MOH National Appointment System (NAS) at this website.
Primary 1 to Primary 3 pupils will be next, and their parents will receive booking invites from the week of Jan 3 next year.
This will be followed by all children aged five and above (born between 2013 and 2017), from the week of Jan 10. Their parents can also register their interest on NAS.
The 15 paediatric vaccination centres will be spread across Singapore and are mainly located with existing vaccination centres for adults and older children.
The MOE and ECDA said that there will be separate queues and spaces at the centres for younger children to ensure safe distancing and correct administration of the vaccine.
These centres will be manned by medical personnel trained in paediatric care, as well as staff trained in administering vaccination to children.
Seven centres will start operations from next Monday, followed by seven more centres from Jan 3. Each centre can take up to 1,000 appointments a day.
An additional paediatric vaccination centre within Yusof Ishak Secondary School will also be set up to cater to families in the Punggol and Sengkang area, which will start on Jan 11.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated if they are medically eligible.
"Thanks to your cooperation, 96 per cent of our eligible population have been fully vaccinated. Vaccinating younger children will help to keep them, their families and the wider community safe, especially with the Omicron variant spreading everywhere," he said.
In a statement on Tuesday, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said: "As parents, we all want to keep our children safe and healthy. Our children come into regular contact with family and friends as part of their daily lives.
"While the risk of our children being infected can never be entirely prevented, vaccination will reduce their chances of being seriously ill, if they are infected."
Mr Chan said that many parents have been concerned about the disruptions to school activities as a result of the pandemic.
"As more of our children get vaccinated, we'll be able to resume more activities, sports and games which are critical to their holistic development and well-being," he added.
Special arrangements will be made for children in special education (Sped) schools and ECDA-funded EIPIC centres. EIPIC stands for Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children.
The Ministry of Health will deploy mobile vaccination teams to schools for all eligible Sped and EIPIC students from Jan 12.
For other children with special needs who do not attend Sped schools or EIPIC centres, such as those from private early intervention centres or who are home-schooled, their parents may register their interest via the NAS when their children's age bands are eligible for registration.
Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty Covid-19 vaccine is the only vaccine approved for children aged five to 11 in Singapore.
The first batch is expected to arrive here on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, the Health Sciences Authority approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty Covid-19 vaccine for use in children in this age group, following phase three clinical trial results showing its safety and efficacy for them.
In an earlier interview with The Straits Times, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary had noted that the eight cases of myocarditis, a type of heart muscle inflammation, that were reported overseas recently in children aged five to 11 who received the Pfizer vaccine were mild.
On the other hand, Singapore has had cases of children here developing severe complications such as multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) as a result of Covid-19.
Hence vaccination is needed to protect children from such serious outcomes requiring medical care or even possibly intensive care, said Dr Janil.