KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 – More children under 12 are being admitted to public hospitals for Covid-19, with over 50,000 children testing positive for the coronavirus since the start of the year.
Hospitalisation of Category Five Covid-19 cases in children below 12 years have increased from below 100 beds on February 3 to 250 on February 17, according to a statement by Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah yesterday.
Hospital admissions of Category Two to Four Covid-19 cases in under-12 children have also seen similar increases over the same period, with health officials warning of an urgent need to get more children vaccinated nationwide as Omicron continues to spread.
“This may be due to the spread of the Omicron variant as well as increased mobility of children in the community following the reopening of schools and childcare centres, therefore increasing the risk of exposure of children to Covid-19 infection,” Dr Noor Hisham said.
Dr Noor Hisham said while Covid-19 symptoms in children are typically less serious than in adults, there have also been cases involving children that require hospitalisation with some being placed under intensive care.
A total of 174 cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) have been reported from June 2020 until December 2021. MIS-C is a critical condition that can occur due to Covid-19 infection that causes inflammation of internal organs, especially the heart, lungs, and brain. The breakdown of the cases are:
- Less than 1 year: 25 cases (14.4 per cent)
- 1 to under 5 years: 38 cases (21.8 per cent)
- 5 to under 9 years: 64 cases (36.8 per cent)
- 9 to under 12 years: 36 cases (20.7 per cent)
- 12 years and above: 11 cases (6.3 per cent)
Dr Noor Hisham said seven cases (4 per cent) of deaths among children have been recorded due to MIS-C following Covid-19 infection. He said children with MIS-C are also at risk of getting long Covid, especially those with chronic lung disease, heart disease, weakened immune systems, diabetes, undergoing treatment using steroids, cancer, asthma, and obesity.
“Given that children are now at high risk of being infected with Covid-19, one of the main methods to reduce this risk is through self-monitoring and vaccination.
“The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use in children 5 to 11 years old in Malaysia. From clinical studies, the effectiveness of this vaccine is 91 per cent and has the ability to enhance a child’s immune response to Covid-19 disease. This can reduce the risk of serious Covid-19 disease,” Dr Noor Hisham said.
As of February 20, a total of 513,393 or 14.5 per cent of children aged 5-11 have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, in a tweet today, lauded Chinese vernacular primary schools for having a much higher Covid vaccination coverage nationwide at 41 per cent than government primary schools at below 10 per cent.
Paediatric Covid-19 admissions in children aged 11-17 have seen some declines in February, with Category Two to Five cases hovering below 200 beds. Category Five coronavirus cases in 11-17 year olds went up to more than 250 beds daily last month.
A total 90 per cent of adolescents aged 12-17 have been fully vaccinated, as of February 20, while 92.8 per cent have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose.