Khairy: Covid-19 jabs for adolescents only for those with underlying medical conditions

A nurse prepares a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the St Nicholas Home, Bagan Jermal July 5, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
A nurse prepares a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the St Nicholas Home, Bagan Jermal July 5, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 — Vaccination for adolescents would only be administered for those with underlying medical conditions for now, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba announced today.

Khairy said that the move announced today is as a precaution and to err on the side of caution.

When asked for clarification on the type of underlying medical conditions, Dr Adham listed immunocompromised children, cancer patients and those with chronic lung disease and other comorbidities such as heart disease and diabetes as those who would be given priority for vaccination.

Dr Adham said that the adolescents would be given the Pfizer vaccine.

“Vaccination for adolescents who are at higher risk of severe Covid-19 due to chronic underlying medical conditions, as advised by their responsible specialists, may benefit from the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.

“Healthy adolescents without underlying medical conditions who are at very low risk of serious Covid-19 may be offered vaccination but at a later stage taking into consideration results of an ongoing clinical trial using a lower dosage of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in children, and real-world safety and efficacy data from countries using different time intervals between vaccine doses in young adults to see if this may be safer.

“Emerging evidence of post vaccination myocarditis indicates an association with the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines. Options to use inactivated vaccines should also be considered for adolescents once the safety and efficacy data is available for this age group,” Dr Adham said, in reading out the Covid-19 Vaccine Candidate Selection Committee’s (JKPCV) Technical Working Group experts’ opinion on vaccinating adolescents against Covid-19 here.

In the statement, the group also said that a robust pharmacovigilance system to monitor the risk of heart inflammation from mRNA vaccine and a fast tract standard operating procedure (SOP) for review and assessment is of utmost importance, along with education both to parents and healthcare workers.

“Education system should aim to re-open schools, not just for academic reasons but for both the mental and psychological health of children and adolescents.

“A structured and focused approach to vaccinate household members, caregivers, teachers and other close contacts should be promoted. Other non- pharmacological interventions should also be part of this ‘safe-school’ strategy to protect our children and adolescents and to prevent school clusters,” they added.

As of June 29, 116,378 children were confirmed to be Covid-19 positive in Malaysia, the JKPCV said, adding that of those, 37,205 children were aged between 13 and 17 years-old.

It said that although children accounted for 15 per cent of total Covid-19 cases, they tend to be asymptomatic or develop milder symptoms and are less likely to develop severe illness.

On June 30, Khairy had announced that the government will reconsider its previous decision to administer the Pfizer vaccine to adolescents, after reports of incidents of side effects relating to heart inflammation, especially among male recipients, national news agency Bernama reported.

Khairy who is also the coordinating minister for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme said his ministry, together with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education will hold a meeting to discuss the issue.

In the press conference today, Khairy also announced that the government has started inoculating students who are going overseas, adding that 17-year-olds who would be turning 18 this year, would also be vaccinated.

This however is on the condition that their parents/guardians sign a consent form.

“However we found issues whereby on the date of their vaccination, they have not yet reached 18-years-old. For this group, vaccination can be given if they are turning 18-years-old this year. But the other requirement which must be fulfilled is that their parents and/or guardians must sign a consent form for this purpose.

“That is the policy which we will inform the vaccination centres,” he added.

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