Azlan Othman, Lyna Mohamad & Daniel Lim
The first day of the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme for children aged five to 11 kicked off yesterday, recording a good turnout across vaccination centres nationwide.
Minister of Education Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sulaiman turned up at the vaccination centre at Seri Kenangan Hall in Tutong District, where he was briefed by centre officials before mingling with the parents and children.
Hajah Siti Arinawani binti Haji Mustafa, who brought her eight-year-old daughter Dayangku Siti Nazirah Insyirah binti Pengiran Yusdi to get inoculated, said, “As parents, we are concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic. However, having the children vaccinated eases that concern, and safeguards them – especially when school re-opens”.
Describing the experience, Dayangku Siti Nazirah said, “It felt like an ant bite; I resisted crying as I was given a sticker. Prior to coming to the vaccination centre, I felt like crying. However, I became less anxious after seeing others going through it as well.”
Another mother who brought in her five and eight-year-old children, Umair and Iman, said that one of them had initially felt like crying.
“I just want my children to be safe as other COVID-19 variants may surface in the future,” she said, adding that the pair from Sungai Liang Primary School are currently attending online classes.
Meanwhile, Pengiran Muda Mahkota Pengiran Muda Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah Hospital Nursing officer Roziah binti Mohammad Alli, the nursing floor manager at the vaccination centre, said, “The children started arriving as early as 7.30am. The procedure ran smoothly, with parents cooperating with the medical team and volunteers.”
The children were also reportedly on their best behaviour.
“It was amazing to see the children so well-behaved, sitting still in the waiting area while waiting their turn. We had prepared ourselves on how to tackle behaviourial issues, but Alhamdulillah they were well-disciplined and interactive with the medical team.
“It was good to see that they were unafraid of getting vaccinated. Perhaps their parents had informed them that it would be harder to move about if they were unvaccinated,” Roziah said.
The medical team also went the extra mile by handing out stickers to lighten the mood. For the next programme, they intend to include fun-filled activities to ensure the kids feel calm.
Many parents opted to have their kids inoculated at the Seri Kenangan Hall after personally experiencing a “seamless process and brief wait time” when receiving the booster shot at the same venue. Some even commuted from other districts.
Roziah said the team felt “honoured to brief the minister and the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Education on the situation at the centre,” adding that “It was nice to see the minister offering encouragement to the children and words of gratitude to the parents.”
The Sunday Bulletin also caught up with parents and children at the Suri Seri Begawan Hospital in Belait District.
Kadiriah binti Haji Awang Mashod, who brought her six, eight and 11-year-old children to get inoculated, said, “I think it is important for them to get vaccinated so as to be protected against the virus.
“Explaining to them the importance of getting vaccinated went smoothly. They understand that movement is limited without the vaccination. Now, they can go out, knowing they have a layer of protection against the virus.”
She also expressed gratitude to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and the Ministry of Health for the opportunity to ensure the health and safety of her children.
Meanwhile, Alif bin Haji Alias, who travelled from Sungai Tali Lumut with his seven and eight-year-old, expressed relief at having his children receive the first dose of the vaccine.
“This good initiative by His Majesty’s Government will help to curb the spread and protect the younger generation against the virus,” he said, before encouraging other parents to follow suit.
In Belait District, parents can also opt to have their children vaccinated at the Panaga Health Centre.