‘Omicron will not be the last Covid-19 variant, so vaccinate your children’

220207 Child vaccination Malaysia

Datuk Dr Amar Singh HSS has been working tirelessly to correct misconceptions about the Covid-19 vaccines for children.

This includes that the vaccines are unsafe, that they alter children’s DNA, and that they affect the heart.

He said there had been some resistance to the vaccine, including from a section of the public who based their objections on false data, or facts not grounded in science.

Malaysia only started vaccines for children aged 5-11 on Feb 3, and Dr Amar is pushing for more parents to get their children vaccinated.

“I have been speaking up in groups to correct this misconception,” said the senior consultant paediatrician and researcher.

“There are no easy answers to vaccinating younger children. You need the best available data to make decisions.”

He said countries like the United Kingdom, United States and Denmark have large numbers of children admitted for respiratory problems due to Omicron.

He said while the side effects of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children appeared milder than in adults or teens, it must nevertheless be kept in mind.

Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration reviewed a study involving 3,100 out of 4,600 children aged between 5 and 11, that had been given the Pfizer vaccine.

The most frequently reported reactions were injection site pain, fatigue, and headache.

Reports have also suggested that children given the Pfizer shot experienced the same side effects as those above 16, including fatigue, fever and chills.

“If I had children aged 5 to 11, I would vaccinate them. But it is always good to have both parents on the same page,” said Dr Amar.

Given the rising number of infections in the country, he said paediatricians are concerned about whether the healthcare system can cope, as there are more admissions of young children now due to Omicron.

He concurred that Malaysia should have started vaccinations for children earlier, like our neighbours Vietnam (in September), Indonesia and Singapore (December), and Thailand (early last week).

“Primary schools and kindergartens are essentially unvaccinated sites with near-zero herd immunity. So, it is easy for the Omicron, or other variants to spread,” said Dr Amar.

“As such, parents should vaccinate their children early to protect them.

“Children must wear good masks (KF94) when in school, and parents must push the schools to have good ventilation.

“Omicron is not the end of Covid-19. It will not be the last variant we will see. Unvaccinated children continue to remain vulnerable.

“As of last month, there were 128 deaths in the under-17 age group in Malaysia due to Covid-19.

“The breakdown is as follows: 0-4 (45), 5-11 (36) and 12-17 (47),” he said.

“Of that number, 79 per cent had comorbidities or chronic illnesses.

“Locally, 170 children under 12 have been admitted into intensive care units with MIS-C (Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children) from March 2020.

“MIS-C can be severe and may have long-term morbidity.”

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, MIS-C is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.

While experts do not know what causes MIS-C, many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes Covid-19, or had been around someone with Covid-19.

He added data for long Covid is limited, but studies in the UK suggested that more than 110,000 children are living with it.