By Sin Chew Daily
The goal for the country’s adult population vaccination rate has been achieved ahead of time, while we boast among the highest adult vaccination rates in the world.
Indeed, judging from the daily infection numbers, and incidence of severe illnesses and deaths, we have seen a downward trend lately, and by right we should feel cautiously optimistic about the development of the current pandemic.
Unfortunately, we have also seen a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases among teenagers and minors.
As revealed by health minister Khairy Jamaluddin, the number of cases involving young people below the age of 18 hit the 400,000 mark on September 16, making up 4.2% of the country’s population in this age bracket, and 19.4% of all the country’s confirmed cases.
Going by the fact that people aged 18 and below make up 29.7% of the country’s total population, this group of people will be the next to fall victim to the coronavirus.
To prevent young people from contracting the virus, remote learning has taken the place of physical classes in schools over the past one year or so, while kindergartens and tuition classes have stopped operating.
The government has repeatedly urged parents to avoid taking their children to crowded public places. Despite such stringent measures, the 4.2% infection rate among the teens is only slightly lower than the national average of 6.4%, and the trend has been alarming.
In more recent months, the highly transmissible Delta variant has spread among young people across the globe, sparking an explosive growth in the number of positive cases worldwide.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a recent statement that pediatric cases rose by 240% in the US since July, underlining the importance of vaccination in humanity’s ongoing war against the virus.
Apparently vaccination is a prerequisite in the protection of our children. Minister Khairy has recently announced the launch of vaccination program for teenagers between 12 and 18, and we believe that the vaccines are safe for them, as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has just been approved by the US FDA for administration on teens above the age of 12.
As for children between five and 11, according to Pfizer, the second and third phase clinical trials have shown marked immune responses to the vaccine among children in this age bracket, and the results are consistent with earlier trials on people aged between 16 and 25. In view of this, Pfizer is expected to apply with FDA as soon as possible so that the vaccine can be administered on children worldwide.
We should seriously consider progressively immunizing young people in the 12-18 and 5-11 age brackets, meaning pupils from pre-school through senior high school are all the targeted groups.
When all Malaysians aged above five have been fully protected against the virus, we will be able to veritably break the chain of infection and claim full victory over the virus.
Should schools remain closed before children and teens are fully vaccinated? Where this is concerned, the COVID-19 task force should assess and handle this thing carefully based on professional evaluation. Rash decisions like opening of Ramadan bazaars earlier on could trigger a new round of explosive growth in infections.
If they insist to reopen schools, then parents should be given the right to decide whether to allow their children to be back at school.
Meanwhile, parents should also exercise extra caution when handling their children’s day-to-day living and keep them away from crowded public places unless absolutely necessary. Parents have had their shots but not their children!
Please, be more responsible for your children’s health and safety so that we can all safely sail past this mammoth crisis of an unprecedented scale.