The National Vaccination Programme has shown encouraging results. As of 11 December 2021, 87% of our total population are fully vaccinated, and vaccination coverage ranges from 91% to 97% for eligible age groups.
2. Over the weekend, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) approved the use of the paediatric doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years. The Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination (EC19V) has also recommended its use for this age group.
Why children and teens should get vaccinated
3. The process of deriving those recommendations included consultations and engagement with healthcare workers and clinical care providers looking after children. For example, with the College of Paediatrics and Child Health under the Academy of Medicine, General Practitioners (GPs), community paediatricians, the teams at the National University Hospital and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital looking after these issues, and they support this move.
4. The main reason why they agree with the assessment of EC19V and HSA is the analysis that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks of getting COVID-19. There is a very small risk of a serious event happening with the vaccination.
5. We have seen this happening, even here in Singapore, and certainly from the data that we are studying around the world. Vaccination is safer than getting a COVID-19 infection.
6. COVID-19 tends to be milder in children compared with adults, and severe disease is uncommon. But there is still a risk of children developing severe disease, with some cases requiring hospitalisation, oxygen supplementation or ICU admission.
7. We are seeing about one or two cases of Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) cases every week since mid-October 2021, and some of these children have required ICU care.
8. Getting our children aged 5 years and older to receive the COVID-19 vaccination will help protect our children from getting COVID-19 infection, and keep them from getting seriously sick even if they do get COVID-19, so reducing the risk of severe complications such as MIS-C.
9. The study in the US of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine was in children between the ages of 5 and 11 years, and this study demonstrated a vaccine efficacy against symptomatic infection of about 90.7%.
10. Our children, as you know, will spend a lot of their time in places like schools or preschools, and here, transmission could spread quickly, not just of COVID-19 but any disease, as the children interact. This then puts the family members of such children at risk, whether they are siblings who are younger and so not yet eligible for vaccination, or those who are older, such as the grandparents, for whom even if they are vaccinated, the risks are higher.
11. So by reducing transmission in this age group, 5 to 11 years, we protect them from the risk of severe complications from COVID-19, but we also protect the rest of their family. Putting all these in place through vaccination for this age group, will reduce the risk of transmission in children of school-going age, and it means that there is less likely to be a disruption to their education, and their opportunity and ability to carry out co-curricular activities, which is what we want for them.
Benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweighs the known and potential risks
12. The dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years is 10 micrograms, it is one-third the dose for individuals that are older.
13. For COVID-19 vaccination, children may also experience some side effects like muscle pain, redness, swelling, tiredness, headache, fever and chills. These are all signs that the body is reacting to the vaccine, and as a result, building up protection and immunity. These side effects will go away in a few days. Many people have no side effects and severe reactions such as allergies are quite rare.
14. The trials of the vaccine in the US compared the side effects between children 5 to 11 years with young persons aged 16 to 25 years and found that the younger children aged 5 to 11 had fewer systemic side effects.
15. We have been giving vaccines locally here across our population in large numbers . In our population, the older population, we also continue to observe that the risk of side effects like anaphylaxis is low, and is comparable to many other medications and vaccines.
16. There were no cases of anaphylaxis seen in the US vaccine trial.
17. There were also no cases of myocarditis and pericarditis in the trial aged 5 to 11 years for the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine in the US.
18. By now, millions of children around the world have been vaccinated using the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine. Up to 5.5 million children in the US in this age group have received the first dose and 2.6 million have completed the two doses as of 12 December, with no safety concerns.
19. So it is important that we offer protection to our school children before school activities resume full swing. Vaccination for this group will commence before the end of this year, once we receive deliveries of the vaccine doses.
20. To help us strengthen COVID resilience for Singapore, we need to have our children between the ages of 5 and 11 years get their vaccination as soon as it is rolled out.
21. We know that parents are concerned. They want the best thing for their children, 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.