SINGAPORE, Dec 21 — The national Covid-19 vaccination programme for children between the ages of five and 11 will begin next Monday (December 27), with bookings opening from tomorrow this week.

In a statement, the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Early Childhood Development Agency (Ecda) said today that the vaccination exercise would open progressively to children born between 2009 and 2012, followed by those born between 2013 and 2017.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a separate statement earlier on Tuesday that the first shipment of paediatric doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine was on its way from Europe. It is expected to arrive in Singapore on Wednesday.

More than 300,000 children between five and 11 years old would be covered by the immunisation drive. It is open to children who are Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders.

Children must have crossed their fifth birthday before they are eligible to book an appointment and receive the jabs.

The Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine is the first Covid-19 shot that the authorities here have approved for use in Singapore for this age group.

MoE said that it has arranged to send an SMS (short message service) invitation to parents or guardians of children enrolled in MoE primary schools to speed up the vaccination booking process by primary-level cohorts.

Students in primary-level madrasahs, or Muslim religious schools, will largely follow similar arrangements as those for MoE primary schools.

From tomorrow, parents or guardians of students in Primary 4 to 6 next year would receive invitations to book vaccination appointments for their child or ward.

MoE said during a press briefing today that close to 120,000 SMSes will be sent out tomorrow to parents and guardians of this age group.

MoH's national appointment system will also open from next Monday for parents or guardians of all children aged between nine and 11 to register their interest to vaccinate their child or ward.

For Pri 1 to 3 pupils in MoE primary schools, parents or guardians can expect to book their vaccination appointments from the week of January 3 next year.

And from the week of January 10, parents or guardians of all children aged five and older can register their interest on the national appointment system.

After registration, they can expect to receive a unique link via SMS in three to five working days to book a vaccination appointment.

While the SMSes has no expiry date, MoE said it is better for parents or guardians to book the vaccination slots early.

“We are releasing large groups almost every week, for less than two weeks apart, and the 15 vaccination centres do have very limited capacity,” it added.

Paediatric vaccination centre

MoE and Ecda said that there would be 15 designated paediatric vaccination centres islandwide for children aged five to 11 to receive their Covid-19 jabs.

Seven will start operations from December 27. These are at:

― Senja-Cashew Community Club

― Nanyang Community Club

― Our Tampines Hub

― Pasir Ris Elias Community Club

― Woodlands Galaxy Community Club

― Nee Soon East Community Club

― Hougang Community Club

Another seven centres will be up and running from January 3 next year. These are at:

― Clementi Community Centre

― The former grounds of Hong Kah Secondary School

― Queenstown Community Centre

― Toa Payoh West Community Club

― Jalan Besar Community Club

― Marine Parade Community Club

― The Serangoon Community Club

MoE has worked with MoH to set up an extra vaccination centre at Yusof Ishak Secondary School in Punggol to provide better coverage of the Punggol and Sengkang areas. It will start operations on January 11 next year.

“These vaccination centres will be manned by medical personnel trained in paediatric care as well as staff trained in administering vaccination for children,” said MoE and Ecda.

Students in SPED schools

To pave the way for children in special education (Sped) schools and Ecda-funded Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (Eipic) centres to get their jabs, MoH will deploy mobile vaccination teams to schools for all such eligible students from January 12 next year.

The Health Promotion Board, which is experienced in managing children with special needs, will manage these teams.

Parents or guardians may opt for their child to receive the vaccine via these mobile vaccination teams or register their interest on the national appointment system for the child to get their shots at a paediatric vaccination centre.

Parents or guardians of children with special and developmental needs who do not attend Sped schools or Eipic centres, such as those from private early-intervention centres or who are home-schooled, may register their interest on the national appointment system when their children are eligible for registration based on their age bands.

Consent from parents, guardians

Consent from parents or guardians is needed for a booking for both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine.

Parents or guardians must also accompany all children aged 5 to 11 to the vaccination centre.

They must take along their child or ward’s student identification, or if that is not available, other forms of identification such as birth certificates or passports for verification.

Those who registered their interest on the national appointment system would also be required to sign a consent form and take along a hard or soft copy to the vaccination centre for verification.

MoE said it has not set a target for the number of children in this age group to be vaccinated as the vaccination exercise is not compulsory, but urged parents to get their children inoculated to better protect them against the coronavirus.

A child's vaccination status will not have an impact on curriculum matters, MoE said, though unvaccinated students may be excluded from higher-risk activities, such as playing in team sports in big groups.

“I think there will be parents who are a bit hesitant, who will take some time. We understand that. We just want to open up to those who are ready, and we continue to see how we can help with providing more information, more data, together with MOH, to assure parents with such concerns,” said MoE.

This is not the first time concerns about the efficacy of vaccines have been raised by parents. Last month, a study launched by the KK Women's and Children's Hospital that assess how children in Singapore will respond to Covid-19 vaccines, was not well received by parents TODAY spoke to.

Some said they were not comfortable with letting their young children be vaccinated against Covid-19 until there is more comprehensive proof that it is safe to do so.

MoE and Ecda today stated again that the clinical trial of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine has shown that it is safe and effective for children in this age group.

“The expert committee on Covid-19 vaccination has assessed that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks,” the agencies added.

The government earlier said that the recommended dosage of the vaccine for children aged five to 11 is one-third of that used in persons aged 12 and above.

Children with moderate to severe chronic medical conditions will also be prioritised for access to the vaccine.

The recommended interval between the first dose and second dose is at least 21 days, said MoE, adding that children in this age group should get their second dose as soon as they are eligible, for higher immunity.

MoE today added that students will be exempted from physical activity two weeks after they have taken their Covid-19 vaccine, and that it is imperative for students to observe this safety precaution.

“We do encourage parents to inform the school when their child has taken the vaccination,” it said, adding that schools will also check with children before the start of any physical activity whether they have gotten the jab.

As of Sunday, about 94 per cent of 12-year-olds to 19-year-olds have completed their full vaccination regimen.

“The extension of the vaccination programme to children aged 5 to 11 is part of the larger national efforts to keep our children, their families and the wider community safe,” said the agencies.

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing noted the concerns among many parents about the disruption to school activities because of the pandemic.

“As parents, we all want to keep our children safe and healthy. Our children come into regular contact with family and friends as part of their daily lives. While the risk of our children being infected can never be entirely prevented, vaccination will reduce their chances of being seriously ill if they are infected,” he said.

“As more of our children get vaccinated, we’d be able to resume more activities, sports and games, which are critical to their holistic development and well-being.”

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung in a Facebook post today added: “With more Omicron variant cases detected locally and globally, vaccination is key to protect both the young and old.” ― TODAY