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COVID-19 medical bills for kids aged 12 and below will be paid for regardless of vaccination status: Ong Ye Kung

COVID-19 medical bills for kids aged 12 and below will be paid for regardless of vaccination status: Ong Ye Kung

Parents accompanying their children while they wait for observation after their vaccination on Dec 27, 2021. (Photo: CNA/Hanidah Amin)

SINGAPORE: Children aged 12 and below who did not travel recently will continue to have their COVID-19 medical bills fully covered by the Government regardless of their vaccination status, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Monday (Jan 10). 

This will apply to children who are Singapore citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders. 

"There are presently no plans to introduce VDS (vaccination-differentiated safe management measures) for children aged 12 and below in the community, and public, pre-school and school settings," said Mr Ong in Parliament. 

“This is due to a combination of reasons, namely, children are less likely to develop severe illnesses when infected, and we want to preserve as much as possible universal access to holistic education for children,” he added. 

While Singapore has a “strict” system for vaccination-differentiated measures, the rules are “much less strict” for children, the Health Minister noted. 

VACCINATION SIDE EFFECTS IN CHILDREN

Since the start of Singapore's national vaccination programme for children aged five to 11, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has not received any reports of serious adverse events or myocarditis in this group of people as of Jan 7.

Giving this update in Parliament, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said: “We assure parents and everyone that all our designated paediatric VCs (vaccination centres) are equipped with paediatric monitoring and resuscitation equipment, and the medical personnel are trained to manage any on-site emergencies arising from allergic reactions.

“Most of the side effects experienced by children after the vaccination have been very mild - injection site pain, fatigue and fever, and they typically resolve in a few days.”

The Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccination has been assessed by the Health Sciences Authority and the expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination to be safe, said Dr Puthucheary. 

This is corroborated with international data - in the US, where about 8.7 million doses had been administered to children as of December, most of the adverse events reported were not serious and no safety concerns have been raised, said Dr Puthucheary.

Among the adverse events reported in children, 2.4 per cent experienced serious adverse events like fever, vomiting, myocarditis and seizures, he added.

The incidence of myocarditis is about one in a million doses, he said. 

However, among individuals aged 12 to 17 infected with COVID-19, the incidence of myocarditis is about 450 per million infections, said Mr Ong. 

As of Jan 7, about 123,000 children aged five to 11 in Singapore have received at least one dose of the vaccine or booked their vaccination appointments, said Dr Puthucheary. 

Children who are Singapore citizens, permanent residents, or long-term pass holders are also covered by the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme for COVID-19 vaccination (VIFAP), he noted. 

Since only the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine is authorised for use in children below 18, special exemptions are made for those 12-17 years old who are not medically eligible for it to receive the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine instead, he added. 

The Health Ministry will work with the expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination to review if this should be extended to children aged five to 11 who are also medically ineligible to complete the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine, he said. 

There are currently no recommendations for children to receive booster shots, said Dr Puthucheary. 

“If introduced, MOH will continue to ensure that families with children are able to access vaccination services in a convenient manner,” he told the House.

Dr Puthucheary also responded to questions about vaccination rates among children and the young. 

Among those aged 12 to 19, less than 4 per cent, or 14,097 individuals, are unvaccinated as of Jan 6, he said. Fourteen of them are medically ineligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine. 

“Vaccination for children aged five to 11 will help to protect more members of our society from the risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 infections, and further minimise the risk of community spread,” said Dr Puthucheary. 

“We strongly encourage all parents all guardians to allow their children who are medically eligible to please take up the vaccine when offered to them.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article quoted Dr Janil Puthucheary as saying that US data showed that 2.4 per cent of vaccinated children experienced serious adverse events. This is incorrect. The 2.4 per cent refers to the percentage of adverse events reported in vaccinated children that were serious. We apologise for the error.

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Source: CNA/hw(gs)

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