KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — Malaysia’s paediatric Covid-19 vaccination programme peaked early at just over a third of under-12 children receiving their first dose, amid widespread hesitancy towards kids’ jabs.
Based on data from the Ministry of Health (MOH), PICKids’ vaccinations peaked on February 23 with about 53,000 children vaccinated that day, based on rolling seven-day averages, just three weeks into the coronavirus paediatric programme that started on February 3.
Since last Sunday, PICKids averaged at under 15,000 jabs per day.
Malaysia administered 1,263,287 first doses of a two-dose Covid-19 vaccine under PICKids as of March 20, covering only 35.6 per cent of 3.6 million children aged five to 11 years old in the country.
Second doses have not yet commenced as Malaysia is using an eight-week interval for the paediatric Covid-19 inoculation programme, which means the earliest February 3 batch will only be eligible for their second jab from the end of this month.
Based on seven-day averages, the daily number of 13,472 children vaccinated on March 20 marked a 31.9 per cent decline from a week prior on March 13 with 19,777 jabs.
With daily vaccination rates not tied to averages, only 8,708 children aged five to 11 received their first dose on March 20, comprising only 12 per cent of the peak of PICKids on February 19 with 71,745 children vaccinated then.
Paediatric coronavirus vaccinations consistently hovered at an average of 50,000 jabs administered per day at the end of February, before dipping to less than 20,000 daily jabs from the second half of March.
The states with the lowest PICKids vaccination coverage as of March 20 were Kelantan (9.5 per cent), Terengganu (11.6 per cent), and Sabah (21.8 per cent).
Sarawak was the only state that vaccinated more than half of its paediatric population with first doses at 68.3 per cent. Melaka (47 per cent), Penang (44.6 per cent), the Klang Valley (43.8 per cent), Johor (42.5 per cent), Negeri Sembilan (39.3 per cent), and Labuan (39.1 per cent) exceeded the nationwide average of 35.6 per cent coverage.
Parents started to receive notifications for their child’s second jab appointment via their MySejahtera app last Monday.
The notification will be released in stages based on the intervals between the first and second dose of vaccine and according to the brand of vaccine received. Parents will receive the notification approximately two weeks before the date of appointment for the second dose.
Parents who had received prior appointments for their children at vaccination centres (PPV) that have been closed will receive new appointments as well.
Parents will also be able to book appointments on MySejahtera for their child’s Covid-19 jab based on their preferred PPV, date, and vaccine. Malaysia’s regulators have approved Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine and Sinovac’s inactivated jab for children aged five to 11.
ProtectHealth CEO Anas Alam Faizli urged parents to protect their children from Covid-19 with vaccines as schools reopen.
MOH reported 123,019 Covid-19 infections in children aged below 12 this year up to March 7, amid an increase of more than 250 per cent in the utilisation of Covid-19 paediatric hospital beds from about 100 beds occupied on February 2 to more than 350 on February 24.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin previously said that more than 600,000 children aged five to 11 did not turn up for their Covid-19 vaccination appointments as of February 3.
“There is so much misinformation out there, especially on the mRNA vaccine,” Anas told CodeBlue. “The vaccine has been proven safe and it works in reducing the severity of Covid-19.”
He also said more paediatricians are coming onboard PICKids, as ProtectHealth, an MOH-owned company which manages the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, has done engagements with the Malaysian Paediatric Association. Pediatricians can join PICKids as participating specialist clinics or through private hospital PPVs if they are working in private hospitals.
“There are more than 1,000 PPVs doing children’s vaccination. We have the capacity, the vaccine, and the resources. What we need is parents to bring their children for vaccination.”