‘Fast and painless’: In Singapore, Covid-19 vaccination drive kicks off for children aged 9 to 11

Children being observed after receiving their Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine jab at the Pasir Ris Elias Community Club on Dec 27, 2021. — TODAY pic
Children being observed after receiving their Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine jab at the Pasir Ris Elias Community Club on Dec 27, 2021. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, Dec 27 — When Sukhvinder Singh, 45, got a text message last week saying that his 11-year-old daughter was eligible to be vaccinated against Covid-19, he booked an appointment on her behalf immediately.

He secured one of the first slots at the paediatric vaccination centre in the Pasir Ris Elias Community Club at 8am today — the first day of the national drive to inoculate five- to 11-year-olds here.

The exercise is starting with older children aged nine to 11.

When TODAY spoke to Singh at about 8.30am today — half an hour after the vaccination centre opened — his daughter Aisha had already received the first shot of her Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

The mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccine by American pharmaceutical firm Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech is the only jab approved for children between the ages of five and 11 in Singapore.

“The process was good. We came early thinking that there would be a lot of parents and kids, but it was very smooth,” said Singh, who works in the marine industry.

“It was a very good experience.”

For his part, Singh said that there was no hesitation when he booked Aisha’s jab and he is not worried about the side effects that she might experience.

His 17-year-old son had already been vaccinated and he did not experience side effects.

Aisha said that she was a bit scared of the needle, but the injection was painless.

“It’s better that expected. I thought it would be more painful,” said Aisha, who will be in Primary 6 next year at Park View Primary School in Pasir Ris.

Aisha was among the first batch of nine- to 11-year-olds who received their vaccine jabs as the national exercise kicked off at seven paediatric vaccination centres.

The other six are at Senja-Cashew Community Club in Bukit Panjang, Nanyang Community Club in Boon Lay, Our Tampines Hub, Woodlands Galaxy Community Club, Nee Soon East Community Club and Hougang Community Club.

Eight more paediatric vaccination centres will open in January.

This morning, the nine pairs of parents and kids who spoke to TODAY at the centres in the Pasir Ris Elias and Senja-Cashew community clubs said that the process was smooth and fast.

TODAY also did not see any queues at both centres.

The children also said that they felt safer after receiving the jabs and some were even excited to tell people that they have been vaccinated.

Parents, kids not worried about side effects

Housewife Wee Seang Ean, 40, who accompanied her 11-year-old son Mikel Low to the Pasir Ris Elias Community Club, said: “It’s been smooth and easy, and help is easily available with good direction (within the centre).”

With about a week before schools reopen after the year-end holidays, Wee, like other parents interviewed, felt that now was a good time for Mikel to be vaccinated as he would have time to rest.

As the boy does not have pre-existing medical conditions, Wee said that she was not worried about side effects, which “should be manageable”.

Her two older daughters, aged 14 and 15, have also been inoculated.

“It should be done. It’s important for these younger ones to be protected also,” said Wee.

Mikel, a pupil at St Gabriel’s Primary School in Lorong Chuan, said: “At first, I felt a bit scared. I thought it would be quite painful, but it wasn’t Now I feel safe.”

At the same vaccination centre, Shayna Lee, a pupil at St Hilda’s Primary School in Tampines, said that she was excited to be vaccinated because she can “show other people that I’m vaccinated and I’m protected from the virus”.

The 11-year-old said that she feared the symptoms of the coronavirus, including fever and breathing difficulties.

“Now that I’m vaccinated, I’m not that worried anymore. As for the side effects of the vaccine, it’s mostly just fever and aches, which sometimes I do get, so it’s quite normal.”

Shao Fay, deputy director of operations at Raffles Medical, which operates the vaccination centre at Pasir Ris Elias Community Club, said that the 500 slots at the centre today were fully booked.

The centre will vaccinate about 500 children daily today and tomorrow. This number will climb to 800 a day and, from Friday, up to 1,000 daily.

By 9.30am today, 100 children had received their jabs at the vaccination centre and none experienced adverse side effects, he said.

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

TODAY also observed that children were weighed before they are inoculated.

Said Shao: “The reason behind the weighing is to determine whether they are above 25kg or under 25kg, because that will determine the countermeasures in the event that they experience a seizure. There’s a difference in terms of which EpiPen we need to administer.”

An EpiPen is a device used to treat acute allergic reactions.

At Senja-Cashew Community Club, run by Thomson Medical, the vaccination drive also proceeded apace.

Westfield Primary School pupil Canagaradj Dev, 9, who was there with his mother, said: “I was nervous when I was at home. Now I’m okay because I thought it would hurt a lot, but it didn’t hurt that much.”

Dev added that he was happy to be vaccinated because he would be safe from Covid-19.

One parent, researcher Marcin Pawlack, 42, said that the advantages of the vaccine were “much, much more important than the potential risk of the vaccine”.

Yesterday, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said that around 40 per cent of students have been signed up by their parents or guardians to receive their Pfizer-BioNTech jabs.

For the second tranche of vaccine registrations for younger pupils in Primary 1 to 3, phone text message invitations will be sent to parents and guardians of pupils in primary schools and madrasahs, or Muslim religious schools, from January 5.

Other pupils in the same age groups will be able to do so from January 6.

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. — TODAY

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