Putrajaya is considering including children aged between 12 and 17 in the fifth phase of the National COVID-19 Immunization Program.

Speaking to The Star, Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said the plan would likely take off in August this year, if the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) approves the use of the Pfizer vaccine to be used on the group.

According to Adham, although the Pfizer vaccine's safety and efficacy in children has already been endorsed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the drugmaker should still need to submit an application to the NPRA at the local level, to expand the use of its Covid-19 vaccine in children aged 12 and above.

"In the interim, the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee and the Disease Control Division under the Health Ministry would also have to endorse the use of the vaccine in children," he told the daily.

The current national immunization drive only involves those aged 18 and above.

If approved, Malaysia will not be the only country to vaccinate children aged above 12. Several other countries, including Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, the Philippines, and Dubai, are already innoculating youths in the age bracket. China has even approved the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines for children aged three and above.

It was recently reported that a total of 82,341 infants and children had been infected with COVID-19 from Jan 25 to May 30, 2021.

The majority of the cases (27,402) involved children aged between 13 and 17, followed by kids aged between seven and 12, with 26,851 cases. As for children aged five and six years old, there were 8,237 cases recorded, while tots below four years old made up the third highest place in the list, with 19,851 cases.

Three children aged under five have also died from the coronavirus in the first five months of the year, compared to the same amount of fatalities among children in the same age, throughout last year.

Experts have said that although children seem to be less affected by COVID-19 in general, youngsters with malnutrition and other comorbidities, such as cancers and tumours, asthma or chronic lung disease, among others, have more severe infections.

As children aged below 18 make up 32 percent of Malaysia's 32.77 million population, vaccinating the 12-17-year-olds could theoritically help Malaysia reach its aim of innoculating 80 percent of its population to achieve herd immunity, said the report.

Source: The Star
Photo source: scientificamerican.com