KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 – Malaysia will begin vaccinating children aged five to 11 years against Covid-19 from February 3, with Pfizer vaccine supplies estimated to arrive starting January 31.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the paediatric coronavirus vaccination programme (PICKids) would prioritise children with underlying conditions, including chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, immunosuppression, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and nerve disease.
The government will use a specially formulated dosage of Pfizer’s vaccine at 10 micrograms for children, one-third of the adult dosage. In the under-12 children’s vaccination programme, two doses will be administered eight weeks apart.
Khairy said, based on the latest data, the eight-week interval is more effective and mounts a stronger immune response, besides potentially giving longer protection from Covid-19.
Besides that, data shows the eight-week interval can reduce the risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart). This interval also has been recommended by health bodies around the world, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, said Khairy.
“The launch of the vaccination programme for children aged five to under 12 years will be held on February 3, 2022, at Tunku Azizah Hospital in Kuala Lumpur,” Khairy told a press conference.
“Bookings of vaccination appointments for children aged five to under 12 years will be opened in stages from January 31, 2022, to parents living in the Klang Valley first.”
Khairy said details on how to book inoculation appointments for children will be released later.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) targets to vaccinate 70 per cent of children aged five to 11 with their first dose within two months from the start of the inoculation programme, and 80 per cent with their second dose within six months.
Clinical trials show that Pfizer’s vaccine is safe and 90.7 per cent effective for children. Khairy pointed out that the United States reported much lower incidents of side effects, or adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) out of the 8.7 million administered doses of the children’s vaccine formulation, compared to teens aged 12 to 17.
Real world data also shows an extremely low rate of myocarditis following vaccination with an mRNA vaccine.
Khairy said the usual vaccine side effects for children are soreness, redness, and swelling at the injection site, as well as fatigue, headache, sore muscles, chills, and fever. These side effects are mild to moderate, and do not last long.
The health minister noted that 269,773 Covid-19 infections were reported in Malaysia among children aged five to 11 from January 25, 2020 to January 19, 2022. Thirty-one children in that age group have died from the virus.
Besides long Covid, kids infected with the coronavirus can suffer Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a serious illness that happens in one in every 3,200 children infected with Covid-19. With MIS-C, children suffer persistent fever, low blood pressure, and inflammation of multiple organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, and intestines.