S'pore approves Pfizer Covid-19 jab for children aged 5 to 11; booster shots for 18- to 29-year-olds from Dec 14

Vaccination for this group will begin once new batches of the vaccine are received. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Children from five to 11 years old will be able to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty Covid-19 vaccine at the end of the month. 

Vaccination for this group will begin once new batches of the vaccine are received, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement on Friday (Dec 10) night.

Those aged between 18 to 29 years who have passed five months since completing their primary vaccination jabs will also be able to receive their booster shots from December 14. 

The Pfizer vaccine is the first Covid-19 vaccine approved by Singapore for use for children aged five to 11, following a recommendation by the expert committee on Covid-19 vaccination, which the multi-ministry taskforce has accepted.

The committee said the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks posed to the young children, especially given the ongoing community transmission and emergence of the Omicron variant. 

It recommended children with moderate to severe chronic medical conditions should be given priority to receive the jabs. 

The children will be given smaller doses - one-third of that used for those 12 and above - and the jabs will be spaced at least 21 days apart, said the health ministry. 

MOH will work with the Ministry of Education and Early Childhood Development Agency to roll out vaccinations for the school-going age group. 

Senior Minister of State for Health Dr Janil Puthucheary said in a Facebook post that the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) had conducted a thorough evaluation of data in consultation with two groups of experts from HSA’s Medicines Advisory Committee and Panel of Infectious Diseases Experts. 

Based on the data, Dr Puthucheary said the “benefits outweigh the risks for use in the young”.

He said: “In an ongoing study of over 2,000 children aged 5 to 11 years, vaccine efficacy was estimated to be 90.7%. In addition, side effects such as injection site pain, fatigue, headache, chills and fever were generally reported less frequently and were milder in severity in the children compared to adolescents...

“There were also no cases of anaphylaxis or myocarditis/pericarditis in the study.”

In early November, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung 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 the month. 

His comments came after the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorised the use of the vaccine for children in that age group.

The take up rate in the US has been low, with just 5 million out of 28 million eligible children having received at least one dose, Reuters reported on Dec 9, citing hesitation among parents and adult caregivers to inoculate their children.

Other nations such as Canada, Israel and Australia have also green lit the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged between five and 11.

Singapore’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak has said last month that there has been a trend of children below the age of 12 getting infected.

Those under the age of 12 accounted for 11.2 per cent of all cases on Nov 19.

Comparatively, infections among children made up only 6.7 per cent of all cases four weeks ago in October, he said. 

“These children remain vulnerable because they are not yet eligible for vaccination to protect them from infection and it’s generally harder to get them to comply with mask-wearing and safe management measures,” said Prof Mak.

To date, 96 per cent of those who are eligible have received two doses of the vaccine. 

“While this is encouraging, we need more people to be vaccinated and boosted, especially given the emergence of the Omicron variant, which is likely to established itself all over the world in the coming couple of months,” said MOH. 

“Vaccinations and boosters are the best protection against an unknown and highly transmissible Covid-19 variant.”

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