The Malaysian government has now approved COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged 5-11 years. The National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme for Children (PICKids) starts February 3 in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor with the rest of the country following soon after. Here’s what you need to know:
At this time, only the mRNA vaccine Comirnaty® 10mcg Concentrate for Dispersion (PfizerBioNTech) is approved for children. This means the vaccine will be administered in two doses of 10mcgs each (0.2mls) 8 weeks apart.
Clinical studies have shown that this vaccine is 90.7% effective in raising immunity to COVID-19. According to the MOH, the latest data on vaccinations for children shows that a wait time of 8 weeks between doses is the most effective at raising the body’s immune response and may provide protection for a longer period of time.
Who should get it?
The MOH recommends that children with underlying medical conditions who are at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 should be prioritised to receive the vaccine.
Children with no underlying medical conditions should also get vaccinated as they are still at risk for severe COVID-19 though this risk is lower.
Who is eligible?
Vaccinations are open to all children aged 5-11 years, both Malaysians and non-Malaysians, including refugees and the homeless.
What are the side effects?
The side effects for adolescents are the same as for adolescents 12 and older – slight fever, headaches, lethargy. The most commonly reported side effects include:
- Pain or swelling where the shot was given
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Decreased appetite
Your child may complain that they ‘feel like they’re getting a cold’. This is normal. Treat symptoms with oral analgesics (paracetamol or ibuprofen) as recommended by your doctor. If the side effects persist and are severe, contact your doctor immediately.
The MOH does not recommend that you give your child oral analgesics or pain relievers (such as paracetamol or ibuprofen) before the vaccination. They should only be taken after the vaccination as management of pain or fever.
What about allergies?
If your child has a history of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) to other drugs, food, insect stings or an unknown trigger, proceed with caution. Consult your doctor on whether or not they should receive the vaccine.
Making vaccination decisions for children
Informed consent is very important when getting vaccines for yourself and your children. Get your information from trusted sources such as the MOH or JKJAV websites or consult your doctor. Parents and caregivers will also be required to sign the informed consent form on behalf of the adolescents before they receive their vaccine.
As parents and guardians, you want the best for your children. Consider the following when you are thinking about vaccinations for your child:
Impact of your child getting COVID-19
While children are less likely than adults to get COVID-19 or to display symptoms when they are sick, there still may be serious outcomes such as hospitalisation, a severe secondary infection or long COVID.
Current health of your child
If your child has certain underlying conditions, such as obesity, Down syndrome, neurological disorders or immunocompromising conditions, the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 may be increased.
Exposure to COVID-19
Right now, the numbers of children with COVID-19 are surging because children are the largest group of people in Malaysia who have not had access to vaccinations until now. As schools open and group activities become more common, the risk of getting infected also increases.
At-risk people in your household
As an unvaccinated child is more likely to contract and spread infection, vaccinating children may help to prevent infection to vulnerable people in your household or community, including those who are unable to get vaccinated because of their age (babies or the very old) or because they are immunocompromised (such as people who are already sick with chronic diseases or cancer).