Paediatrician: Vaccinate your kids, surge in Covid-19 cases among children ‘worrying’

The rise in the number of children infected with Covid-19 is a cause for concern, and a consultant paediatrician encourages parents and guardians to get their young vaccinated.

As physical classes and activities resume in schools and the country transitions into the endemic phase starting April 1, Dr Tiew Wah Tin from Hospital Tuanku Azizah, Kuala Lumpur, said the authorities should continue to work hard to push the vaccination rate among children.

“There will be outbreaks of (Covid-19) cases in schools, kindergartens and hostels. We should work hard on it (pushing for vaccination),” said Dr Tiew.

To date, 1.28 million children, aged between five and 11, have received their shots. Another 70 per cent of children are still unvaccinated.

The upcoming school holidays and the festive season will see mass interstate travel. The nation’s borders are set to open on April 1, raising the possibility of more infections among the young.

Dr Tiew admitted that some parents were concerned about getting their children vaccinated.

“We need to know what their concerns are. What are the parents worried about? Is it the possible side effects, or is it based on something that their friends had told them, or had read?

“Once we know what they are, we can then explain to them and address the issue.”

She encouraged parents to speak to doctors about their concerns.

“What they (parents) are worried about is mainly the side effects. Having received their doses and booster shots, some of them said they had felt tired and wanted to know if the same would happen to their children.

“The tiredness shows that your body is reacting to the vaccination. It’s normal. It’s just that some people have a stronger reaction than others.”

She said the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) had reported that as of March 26, there were 207 reports of children suffering adverse effects from the vaccination.

“It’s (the number of incidents) quite low … Most have very mild reactions. The vaccine for children is quite safe. Get your child vaccinated.”

She said this during a virtual press conference organised by the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) this afternoon.

NCSM managing director Dr M. Murallitharan was joined by Dr Tiew; ProtectHealth Corporation chief executive officer, Datuk Dr Anas Alam Faizli; Dr Leong Chee Loon, an infectious diseases specialist at Hospital Kuala Lumpur; Dr Hanif Zailani, the Health Ministry’s Head of Sector, Vaccine Preventable Diseases; and president of the Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr Shawaludin Husin.

Dr Tiew added that it was important to keep the public informed of what to expect, to allay their fears.

“They will know what to monitor, what to pay attention to. If you are worried that your child will get a fever, just have some fever medicine on standby and get your child to drink plenty of fluids.”

She pointed out that when the pandemic first hit Malaysia in 2020, there were 12,600 cases involving children. In 2021, the number of cases shot up to 300,000.

“At the moment, 120,000 cases involve children. That’s an average of 3,600 kids being infected with Covid-19 daily. About 1,500 of them are between the ages of five and 11.

“The vaccination for kids just started this year.”

Following the Omicron wave, she noted that more children suffered from high fever and seizures, and needed oxygen.

“It is worrying. There are quite a number of them suffering Categories 4 and 5 symptoms. Some of them have multi-organ problems – kidney, brain and inflamed heart.”

She also said long Covid-19 was another worry.

“(Due to) the drastic increase in (the number of) cases and consequences of having Covid-19, I encourage parents to get their children vaccinated.

“What we see on the ground is quite worrying, and it is sad. Children are supposed to be happy playing, but they are in the hospital.”

She said it was important to get a booster shot after two jabs, adding that health officials would have to wait for the recommendation from the World Health Organisation to see if the Covid-19 vaccination would become an annual affair.

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