Doctors answer questions about vaccinating children against Covid-19

Children, like adults, should not do any strenuous exercise for at least two weeks after getting the vaccine. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Parents concerned about the safety of vaccinating their children against Covid-19 had their questions addressed in a webinar organised by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Education last Saturday (Dec 18).

The experts who spoke were Dr Derrick Heng, group director of public health at MOH; Dr Chan Si Min, head and senior consultant at the division of paediatric infectious diseases at the department of paediatrics at National University Hospital; and Associate Professor Thoon Koh Cheng, senior consultant at the KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

Here are five key questions raised by parents.

Q: What are the immediate side effects of the vaccine on children?

A: Children can expect similar side effects to adults such as pain and redness around the vaccination site, as well as some mild nausea, lethargy and headaches. The doctors said they do not expect many severe or serious side effects, but will continue to monitor the situation.

Children, like adults, should not do any strenuous exercise for at least two weeks after the vaccine. This means no extended exercise like swimming, jogging or physical education lessons at school.

However, normal physical activities such as going to the playground or playing and running around the house are safe.

Q: Will the vaccination have any effects on puberty and fertility or cause other long-term issues?

A: There is no evidence to suggest the Pfizer vaccine will affect puberty in any way, nor to suggest that it will affect the future fertility of children in any way, based on what is known about how the vaccine technology works.

Q: Which children should not take the vaccine? Is the jab safe for children with conditions such as asthma or G6PD?

A: Children with severe allergic reactions to components of the vaccine should not take it. Those who have had allergic reactions to the first dose of the vaccine should also not take the next dose.

However, children with other general medical conditions such as asthma can take the vaccine, and in fact may be more in need of the protection it offers as they may have weaker immune systems.

The experts advised parents who have concerns about their children's specific medical conditions and how they interact with the vaccine to consult a doctor.

Q: Is the paediatric dose good enough to protect kids? If the child is 11, should parents wait until the child is 12 to get an adult dose?

A: Trials have shown that the 10microgram paediatric dose is just as effective as the doses given to young adults in terms of efficacy, said experts.

Parents should not wait to vaccinate their child with the adult dose. The dosage is determined by the age of the child, rather than the child's size or weight, and has to do with the maturity of the child's internal organs, said the experts.

Q: So far, children have had mild or no symptoms from Covid-19, so what is the point of vaccinating them?

A: Although it is true that severe Covid-19 disease is rare among children, as infection numbers in the community rise, more children may be infected, with a corresponding rise in the number of severe cases.

Children are also vulnerable to a rare condition known as multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which can develop after they recover from Covid-19.

As at Nov 15, there have been six cases of MIS-C reported in Singapore in children aged between two months and 11 years. The condition results in the inflammation of various organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain, and may require urgent care. Much is still not understood about it.

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