Children aged 5 to 11 can get Covid-19 booster shots in about 2 months: Janil Puthucheary


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Covid-19 booster doses for children aged five to 11 will be made available in about two months, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said in parliament today (Aug. 1).

He acknowledged that a third mRNA dose of a Covid-19 vaccine may be needed “at some point” to keep children’s levels of protection high, and said MOH has made the necessary preparations to roll out a vaccine booster for children. this group.

Children under 5 years old who must be vaccinated by the end of the year

At present, the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine remains the only vaccine approved for use in children ages five to 17 in Singapore, Puthucheary said.

Children who are medically ineligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine can receive the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine as part of a special public health program.

However, Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for this age group remains under evaluation, Puthucheary added.

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Puthucheary noted that children under five are currently the last group in Singapore not yet protected by vaccination.

He said MOH is preparing to begin vaccination for children under five by the fourth quarter of this year.

“The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) is currently reviewing the data submitted by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna on their Covid-19 vaccines for this age group. We will provide an update when a review of the vaccines’ quality, effectiveness and safety is completed,” Puthucheary said.

Children less susceptible to serious consequences of Covid-19

In his speech, Puthucheary said he was saddened by the recent deaths of two young children from Covid-19 and expressed his “deepest condolences to their families”.

“Based on local and international data, the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants have not been observed to affect children more severely than previous variants, and severe Covid-19 infection remains rare in children, especially those who have been vaccinated” , he said.

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Currently, children under the age of five remain more vulnerable to Covid-19 infection and have higher rates of serious consequences compared to older children.

This is similar to other respiratory illnesses, Janil said.

However, compared to adults and the elderly, the overall incidence of serious consequences of Covid-19 infection remains “much lower” in children.

Children under three months of age are hospitalized as standard

Janil added that children who need medical attention should visit a general practitioner (GP) or an outpatient clinic.

Children with symptoms of acute respiratory tract infection (ARI) are routinely tested with an antigen rapid test (ART) or a polymerase chain reaction test (PCR).

Children under three months of age are hospitalized as standard, while older children are treated under the Home Recovery Program and assessed by physicians through a 24-hour telemedicine service.

Hospitals will continue to prioritize care for children with urgent medical conditions, and those who need further observation and treatment will be admitted, Janil said.

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“MOH regularly reviews and updates the screening and assessment criteria with input from a panel of specialists,” he added.

Use of oral antivirals for children under 18 years of age

Janil then responded to a question from Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim, who asked whether MOH will consider approving the use of oral antivirals to treat toddlers or young children infected with Covid-19.

Janil said oral antivirals are only licensed for use by patients ages 18 and older, under HSA’s Pandemic Special Access Route.

For children ages 12 to 18, local and foreign treatment guidelines indicate that Paxlovid, Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral pill, can be considered on a case-by-case basis, Janil said.

“We will continue to review the evidence for the use of oral antivirals in children under the age of 18,” he added.

Top photo via Chan Chun Sing/FB.