SINGAPORE: A one-and-a-half-year-old Singaporean boy who contracted the coronavirus died on Monday (Jun 27), becoming the country's first COVID-19 death under the age of 12.
“The cause of death was Encephalitis due to COVID-19, Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Enterovirus infections,” said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a media release, adding that the patient had no other past medical history and was previously well.
The boy was taken to the children’s emergency department at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) on the night of Jun 21. He had a high fever and recurrent seizures, with a subsequent drop in consciousness, said MOH.
He was admitted to the children’s intensive care unit in critical condition on Jun 22 and was diagnosed with severe meningoencephalitis. It refers to a neurological condition that involves encephalitis or inflammation of the brain, and infection of the meninges or membranes that cover the brain.
His polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test was positive for COVID-19 as well as two other viruses – rhinovirus/enterovirus and respiratory syncytial virus.
The ministry noted that COVID-19 can result in severe disease, even in children and those without pre-existing medical conditions.
"Vaccination substantially reduces the likelihood of severe disease when one is infected," said MOH.
“All children aged five to 11 years are recommended to be vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine, especially children with underlying chronic medical conditions."
The ministry added that authorities will study the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines for children under the age of five. This comes after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Jun 18 recommended COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months old.
“MOH extends our deepest condolences to the patient’s family," said the ministry. "We understand that KKH is in contact with the family to provide the necessary support.”
Singapore reported 5,309 COVID-19 cases on Monday amid a recent surge in infections mainly driven by the newer Omicron subvariants known as BA.4 and BA.5.
The two subvariants accounted for about 45 per cent of the community COVID-19 cases in the past week, said the Health Ministry on Monday, up from about 30 per cent the week before.