MOH: Unvaxxed Children Can Carry Coronavirus, Reinfect Adults

Health Ministry officials say the Covid-19 vaccine will protect children from long Covid and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) caused by Covid-19 infection.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 – Unvaccinated children risk reviving the Covid-19 transmission cycle and reinfecting inoculated adults when the latter’s protection against the virus declines, a Ministry of Health (MOH) official said. 

Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim, Health deputy director-general of research and technical support, explained that unvaccinated kids below the age of 12 could be carriers of the coronavirus and pose a public health threat when vaccine-induced immunity of vaccinated adults wanes over time. 

This will not end the Covid-19 transmission cycle, he pointed out.

“When they are not immunised, they are prone to get infection during their interactions and they bring back the infection to home,” Dr Hishamshah said in a Tuesday media briefing focusing on the assessment and safety monitoring of Covid-19 vaccines.

“They’ll re-infect the adults.”

Dr Hishamshah stated that Covid-19 among children is not as simple as thought because infected children can develop serious illness and sometimes, that leads to death among this population.

“Covid-19 among children is not a walk in a park by just saying mild infection. If they get unwell, they can get very serious illnesses. Children with comorbidities die.” 

He highlighted that Covid-19 can leave its footprints and cause long Covid among infected children. Long-term symptoms of Covid-19 will certainly be a burden for children and their growth. 

“They may not die because of the disease (Covid-19), but they get long-term effects from the disease.”

Covid-19 Can Cause Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome Among Children

Dr Sabeera Begum, consultant paediatrician from Tunku Azizah Hospital, Kuala Lumpur,  pointed out the possibility of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) caused by Covid-19 infection. 

MIS-C is a serious condition of organ inflammation such as the lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.

“They can get severe, they can get complications from Covid, complications like MIS-C in children,” Dr Sabeera stated in the media briefing.

“Following the Covid reaction, the body responds to the virus and can get severe inflammation in organs like, lung, kidney, eyes and even skin.”

According to Dr Sameera, a local study on MIS-C started in November last year in 14 MOH health care facilities identified 174 MIS-C cases among children infected with Covid-19.

Of the 174 cases, 56 per cent, or 97 cases, were reported among children aged between five and eleven, whereas seven deaths have been recorded thus far. 

Covid-19 hospital admission rates by age group from Epid Week 43 of 2021 (Oct 24-30) to Epid Week 5 of 2022 (Jan 30-Feb 5). Graphic provided from the Ministry of Health at a media briefing on February 8, 2022.

Based on a slide shared in the media briefing, paediatric Covid-19 hospital admissions among under-12 children from October 24 last year to February 5 this year ranged from 0.1 to 0.3 cases per 100,000 population, the second lowest rate after adolescents aged 12 to 17 that ranged from zero to 0.1 cases per 100,000 people.

Throughout those 15 weeks, the highest Covid-19 hospitalisation rate was recorded among senior citizens aged 60 years and older, followed by adults aged 41 to 60 years and young adults aged 18 to 40 years.

In the fourth epidemiological week this year (January 23 to 29), for example, the elderly saw 3.5 admissions per 100,000 people for Covid-19, compared to 0.1 among children aged below 12 years.

Over 99% Of Children’s Covid-19 Infections Asymptomatic, Mild

MOH stated that last year — from August 1 until December 31 — a total of 282,846 Covid-19 cases were reported among children aged below 12 years. Of them, more than 99 per cent were classified as Category One (asymptomatic) and Two (mild). 

Category One cases comprised 121,626 (43 per cent) cases while 160,274 cases (56.66 per cent) were classified as Category Two.

The balance 714 cases (0.25 per cent), 141 cases (0.05 per cent), and 91 cases (0.03 per cent) were classified as Category Three, Four and Five respectively.

The same trend of overwhelmingly asymptomatic or mild Covid-19 infections among under-12 children were recorded this year, as more than 99 per cent of cases last month in kids were Categories One and Two.

From January 1 until 31, a total of 26,451 Covid-19 cases were reported among children aged below 12 years. Of them, 8,753 (33.09 per cent) cases were grouped as Category One and 17,604 cases (66.55 per cent) classified as Category Two.

The balance 72 cases (0.27 per cent), 18 cases (0.07 per cent), and four cases (0.02 per cent) were classified as Category Three, Four and Five respectively.

MOH launched the paediatric Covid-19 inoculation programme (PICKids) on February 3 and has successfully administered the first dose of vaccine to 41,393 children as of February 7. 

MOH aims to administer at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine to 3.6 million children by the end of March this year.

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