Amid the rising coronavirus cases in Singapore, the government is “working out” a plan to kickstart vaccination for kids under the age of 16 years.
Education Minister, Chan Chun Sing said in a Facebook post, “Once the approval for use is granted, we will roll out vaccinations to those below 16.”
The minister mentioned that kids who have been infected with COVID have mild symptoms, but none of them are seriously ill.
However, “The situation continues to be extremely worrying because new strains of the coronavirus are much more virulent and seem to attack younger children,” he added.
Vaccination For Kids In Singapore: What You Must Know
Singapore is planning to roll out vaccination for kids under the age of 16 years. | Image courtesy: iStock
Mr Chan said that Singapore “must be prepared to live in a world where Covid-19 could be endemic.” This means finding new ways to cope so that students can continue learning in a safe, physical environment as far as possible.
Singapore seems to have been following in the footsteps of US health regulators, who have approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 years.
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are the two vaccines that have been approved for use in Singapore.
While the little red dot has so far vaccinated 1.9 million people with the first dose and nearly 1.3 million have received both doses; trials for both vaccines in children aged 12 and above have only just begun.
Addressing the safety concern of the vaccination for kids, Chan said, “It is not that the vaccine is unsafe for young children by no clinical trials. They did not test on enough children of that age group and, therefore, it is not approved internationally to be used on children.”
He further added, “This has changed, and so MOH is working with MOE on youth vaccination because there is precedent elsewhere that the drug can be administered to those between 12 and 15-years-old.”
Schools Shift to Home-based Learning in Singapore
All schools have been shifted to online learning from May 19 amid a spike in cases. | Image courtesy: Minister Chan Facebook page
Amid the spike in unlinked coronavirus cases, all schools will shift to home-based learning from May 19, until the end of the school term on May 28. This applies to all primary, secondary and junior college students, as well as those from Millennia Institute and special education schools.
This announcement was made after Singapore reported 38 community cases as of Sunday noon, of which 18 were currently unlinked.
What happens during HBL?
During the HBL period, schools will provide instructions and support for students. They will be able to access a range of both online and hard copy materials.
In addition to this, student care centres in the schools will continue operating. This provision is to help support students with care needs and parents with childcare challenges.
According to The Straits Times report, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung added the new B1617 strain–first detected in India–appears to be affecting younger children more. This is why schools here are taking a more cautious approach this time around.
Earlier, 7 primary schools had implemented home-based learning as a precautionary measure after several of their pupils tested positive for Covid-19. The cases are linked to tuition centres, and none of the pupils appeared to have caught the virus in school.
Mr Chan further mentioned that the priority is to ring-fence the schools with confirmed cases. This will help to safeguard the students and the staff members.
MOE on Friday had announced a slew of strict measures including conducting co-curricular activities online and suspending external activities. The Ministry also encouraged private tuitions to move online during this heightened period of tension. The June school holidays will start from May 29 to June 27.
More Testings Needed In Singapore For Kids To Fully Vaccinated
Mr Ong explained that part of the reason for the high numbers on Sunday is because the authorities have been “coupling” the outcomes from antigen rapid tests. These are less accurate but can be done quicker.
More of such rapid testing kits will be distributed to public health preparedness clinics soon.
The minister however, clarified that the cases detected by antigen rapid testing will be tested with the more accurate polymerase chain reaction test for them to be included in the daily case counts.
Don’t Vaccinate Kids Against COVID-19: WHO Chief
UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) also recently approved the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 12 to 15. At a time, when countries are starting vaccination for kids under 16 years, the WHO chief has criticised the move.
WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, voiced outrage against the vaccination of kids. He said that a number of rich countries were now vaccinating children and teenagers, while poorer states had barely begun vaccinating health workers and the most vulnerable groups.
He called on countries to give their doses to the COVAX global vaccine-sharing scheme. To ensure that those most in need in all countries receive protection.
But Medical Experts Say Singaporean Kids Must Get Vaccinated
Medical experts had earlier advised that vaccinating children is necessary for Singapore to achieve herd immunity.
As Professor David Matchar from Duke-NUS Medical School explained, “Children under the age of 16 make up around 12% of the population. Not inoculating children may lead to new mutations of the virus. This may result in a prolonged pandemic for everyone.”
Public health experts say vaccinating children is crucial to protecting them from infection and achieving community-wide immunity.
So, even after our kids become eligible for vaccination, it is important to teach them how to stay safe.
Considering the current situation in the country, it is natural for your to worry.
But, it is not the time to panic or let your guards down. Instead, teach your kids to practice caution.
Encourage children to wash their hands with soap and water.
Ask them to carry sanitisers and wear a mask every time they step out of their homes, if they step out.
Scientists have been saying for over a year that COVID is airborne, now WHO and US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention also think the same. Hence ventilation plays an extremely important role.
Cleaner indoor air will not just fight the pandemic, it will minimise the risk of catching flu and other respiratory infections. So ensure that you have a clean home and proper ventilation of fresh air. Its also best to not take your children out at this time, and practice social distancing at all times.
As for vaccinations, once the restrictions are lifted and MOE gives a green signal for vaccination for kids, consult your doctor immediately.
Stay safe and alert!