I strongly believe that it is time the federal government and Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) consider reversing their decision to withhold the immunisation of children between the ages of 12 and 17 in our country, as the benefits of vaccination highly outweighs the risks.
This is especially true in view of the emerging variants of concern that are more transmissible being reported across the world, including the Delta, Lambda and Delta Plus variants.
I also refer to the opening of schools in less than a month, and the announcement by the prime minister on relaxing movement controls, including allowing parents who are fully vaccinated to travel across state borders to meet with their children.
While these parents may be vaccinated, they are travelling back to meet their children who are unvaccinated, which not only put them at risk of contracting Covid-19, but also for these children to become Covid-19 spreaders.
Data has shown that children, particularly adolescents, can play a significant part in Covid-19 transmission, especially to high-risk groups including grandparents and other family members with comorbidities.
With the new variants, the disease pattern has changed, and even more young people are getting infected with Covid-19 here in Sarawak. Some children have developed severe symptoms, and in some extreme cases, have even died.
About 0.52 per cent or 15 of the 2,867 Covid-19 deaths reported in Malaysia as of June 1 occurred among children aged below 18 years old.
These children might recover, but they might subsequently develop symptoms related to long Covid. This is why considerations are different now, especially in view of the opening of schools and the relaxation of restrictions.
While I understand some parents’ concerns about vaccination side effects, especially myocarditis (heart inflammation), which have reported elsewhere, such incidents are very small, with only 40 cases per one million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that have been administered to men aged 12 to 29.
Young people who did develop myocarditis from the mRNA vaccine mostly experience a mild illness, and virtually all of them have recovered spontaneously or with minimal treatment. No deaths have been reported so far.
However, the risk of boys aged 12 to 17 years old developing myocarditis and pericarditis from Covid-19 is estimated to occur at 876 per million. This is 13 times more than the risk of them developing it from the mRNA vaccines (67 per million).
For girls aged 12 to 17 years old, the risk of developing myocarditis and pericarditis from primary Covid-19 infection is 213 per million. This is 24-fold the risk of getting it from the mRNA vaccines (nine per million).
These figures speak for themselves. The benefits of vaccinating boys and girls aged 12 to 17 years old clearly outweigh the risks of myocarditis and pericarditis associated with the mRNA vaccines.
Other vaccines, including Sinopharm and Sinovac, have also been tested in young people over the age of 12. Several countries, including the US, Israel and China, are now offering vaccines to this age group.
So far, the vaccines seem to be safe for adolescents, and some companies have moved on to carrying out clinical trials in children as young as six months old.
In the US, vaccines for those under 12 might be available later this year.
I hope that JKJAV will relook the data and realise that we need to protect our children. They consist of about 30 per cent of our population, and I strongly believe it is our responsibility to make sure they are protected as much as possible.
Dr Kelvin Yii is the Member of Parliament for Bandar Kuching.
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