Most S'pore parents keen to sign kids up for Covid-19 vaccination despite concerns over side effects

Students will be able to book appointments to receive the Covid-19 vaccine from June 1, 2021.
Students will be able to book appointments to receive the Covid-19 vaccine from June 1, 2021.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - While parents are concerned about the side effects of the Covid-19 vaccination on their children, most are still keen to sign them up for the jab to protect them against the coronavirus.

Some parents The Straits Times spoke to on Tuesday (June 1) said they were looking forward to getting their children vaccinated, for peace of mind when they return to school - especially if they are taking national exams this year.

There were some who questioned the long-term implications of the vaccination, while others were not concerned about side effects, having taken the jabs themselves.

The authorities had announced on Monday that more than 400,000 students aged 12 and above would be next in line for the national vaccination drive, and they can start booking appointments for their shots from Tuesday.

Mr Mohd Shaiful, 42, who has three school-going children aged 12, 15 and 18, said he wants his children to be vaccinated for their own protection and to reduce their chances of getting the virus.

The technician is fully vaccinated, and had a mild fever after.

"I am not worried about the side effects. I think the kids should be fine," he said.

Mrs Lim Bee Lan, 49, a housewife, said she was glad vaccinations are being rolled out for students as it could mean less disruptions to learning.

Schools had switched to full home-based learning for nearly two weeks after a spate of infections among children in the recent Covid-19 outbreak here.

"I'm glad that there are things being done. It's quite concerning for the kids with school being disrupted. It would be great if we can move forward with less disruptions for the kids and teachers," said Mrs Lim, whose three daughters are aged 12, 14 and 16.

She is getting her second dose of the vaccine this week.

"I will sign them up for the vaccine. It's good to be safe and it's also to protect others. In a school environment, exposure to the virus could be quite high. There's very little that can be done to separate the children," she added.

Housewife Jasmine Chua, who has a 13-year-old son in Secondary 1, is on the fence about letting her son take the vaccine.

The 48-year-old has not taken the vaccine herself as she is concerned about the potential long-term side effects or complications, though her husband is vaccinated.

She said she is leaving the choice to her son, who also seems concerned about the long-term side effects.

Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only Covid-19 vaccine that has been authorised for use in adolescents aged 12 to 17 in Singapore.

Those aged 18 and above can opt for either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.

At a webinar organised by the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Tuesday, three panellists addressed questions from parents on the side effects as well as the safety and efficacy of the vaccine for children.

The webinar was attended by 3,000 people, which was its maximum capacity.

A parent who attended the webinar said the panellists were MOE director of schools Liew Wei-Li, MOE coordinating divisional director for the higher education group Jan Chua and Health Ministry deputy director for professional training and assessment standards Alvin Lee.

Asked why children need to be vaccinated, given that the long-term impact of the vaccine is unknown and children with Covid-19 usually recover with no complications, the panellists pointed to cases of the virus spreading within households, and how it is more challenging to ensure children follow safe distancing rules.

In the event that the Covid-19 vaccine clashes with other vaccines like the cervical cancer jab which is available for Secondary 1 female students, vaccinations should be scheduled at least two weeks apart.

The panellists also assured parents that MOE will not segregate or distinguish students based on whether they are vaccinated, for example, by seating them separately during exams.

On why vaccinations are not done on-site at each school like how booster shots for primary and secondary school children are usually rolled out, they pointed to the large number of students and said having jabs done at designated centres will allow parents to pick a time and venue that is convenient for their child.