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'No plans presently' to introduce vaccination-differentiated measures for children aged 12 and below: MOH

'No plans presently' to introduce vaccination-differentiated measures for children aged 12 and below: MOH
File photo of a woman checking into a shopping mall and showing her vaccination status on Oct 20, 2021. (Photo: CNA/Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: There are presently no plans to introduce vaccination-differentiated safe management measures for children aged 12 years and below, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Tuesday (Dec 14).

"The focus now is to ensure our children are well-protected by vaccination," MOH said in an updated press release on Tuesday afternoon.

COVID-19 vaccination for children aged between five and 11 is expected to begin before the end of this year, after the authorities approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for this age group.

When asked how children in this age group will be affected by vaccination-differentiated measures if they are not vaccinated, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said more details will be made available in the "coming few days".

"I know everyone is interested to know the policy treatment. We are working through all this with MOE (Ministry of Education), so don't jump to conclusion too soon," said Mr Ong at a COVID-19 multi-ministry task force press conference.

"Once we have chart out the whole plan, together with MOE, we will announce the arrangements and the policies."

MIS-C AFTER COVID-19

Underscoring the importance of vaccination for children, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said at the same press conference that Singapore has seen "about one to two" cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) every week since mid-October.

MIS-C is a hyper-inflammatory syndrome that occurs in a child two to eight weeks after COVID-19 infection, causing fever, inflammation, and other symptoms.

Dr Puthucheary said that some of these children who developed MIS-C have required intensive care.

"Getting our children aged five years and older to receive the COVID-19 vaccination will help protect our children from getting the COVID-19 infection and keep them from getting seriously sick even if they do get COVID-19," he said.

This reduces the risk of severe complications, such as MIS-C, he said. 

While COVID-19 tends to be milder in children, compared with adults, and severe disease is uncommon, there is still a risk of children developing severe disease. Some cases require hospitalisation, oxygen supplementation and intensive care unit admission, he said. 

Children spend a lot of their time in places like schools and preschools and transmission of diseases like COVID-19 can spread quickly as children interact, Dr Puthucheary said.

"This then puts at risk the family members of such children, whether they are siblings who are younger and so not yet eligible for vaccination, or those who are older such as the grandparents who, even if they are vaccinated, the risks are higher," he said.

Reducing transmission in children aged five to 11 protects them from the risks of severe complications of COVID-19 and protects the rest of their family, he said.

Referring to the trials of the vaccine in the United States, Dr Puthucheary said that children aged five to 11 had fewer systemic side effects compared to those aged 16 to 25.

He added that there were no cases of anaphylaxis, myocarditis or pericarditis in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trials in the US for children aged five to 11.

Millions of children around the world have been vaccinated using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Dr Puthucheary said, noting that up to 5.5 million children in the US in this age group have received the first dose and 2.6 million have completed two doses as of Dec 12, with no safety concerns.

"It's important that we offer protection to our school children before school activities resume full swing," he said. 

Vaccination will begin this year and when Singapore receives delivery of the vaccine doses, he added.

Children of this age group need to get their vaccination as soon as it is rolled out to help Singapore strengthen its COVID-19 resilience, Dr Puthucheary said.

He acknowledged that parents are concerned.

"They want to be able to protect their children and create opportunities for their children. This is what we want as well. Our assessment is the best way to do that is to vaccinate our children against COVID-19," he said. 

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Source: CNA/ja(mi)

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