The Ministry of Health (MoH) does not have a specific target for the vaccination of children in the five to 11 age group as it will be done voluntarily.
This was said by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during the special press conference yesterday.
“It will not be used as a passport to enter any premises or schools. When schools re-open, it will open regardless of the children’s vaccination status,” said the minister, adding that the government had to make vaccination passports for children aged 12 to 17 during the peak of the outbreak in the Sultanate.
“We want the public, especially parents and guardians, to self-assess what the Ministry of Health has described regarding the vaccine, such as its benefits and risks,” he said.
Although COVID-19 symptoms on children are generally mild, the minister said that there is a 0.03- per-cent death rate recorded by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Three in 1,000 unvaccinated children may face severe side effects that can subsequently lead to death according to the WHO,” he said.
The death rate among children with COVID-19 is very low in the Sultanate, said the minister, adding that the previous deaths of two infected children in the country were due to chronic diseases, while four children who previously suffered from multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) have recovered.
He added that the vaccination programme will stay voluntary for parents or guardians to decide as there are several factors to consider and to be understood before vaccinating children or staying unvaccinated.
“The WHO does recommend for countries that are able to obtain the vaccine to provide immunisation,” said the minister.
Meanwhile, Paediatric Cardiologist Consultant and Head of Paediatric Services at the MoH Dr Hajah Rohayati binti Haji Mohd Taib said the ministry highly recommends children to get vaccinated as the MoH is anticipating an increase in hospitalisation among children amid the Omicron surge.
“Compared to Delta, children hospitalisation was four times higher globally,” she said, noting that there are more children admitted to the intensive care unit compared to the previous wave when there were none.
The Omicron variant has caused many children to suffer from high fever and diarrhoea, as well as swollen skin and MIS-C.
“In this wave, we have seen and cared for four children who have recovered,” she added.
As the current wave starts to wind down, Dr Hajah Rohayati said that children’s hospitalisation is also declining. However, there were several hospital admittance from children who had the virus previously but were asymptomatic.
“MIS-C can happen two to six weeks from symptomatic or asymptomatic COVID-19, and the danger is that it affects the children’s heart system by an average of 50 to 75 per cent,” she said.
“Alhamdulillah, representing the paediatric caregivers, we are thankful to have this vaccine,” she added.