KUALA LUMPUR: The vaccination of children aged between five and 11 under the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme for Kids (PICKids) will be done on a voluntary basis and no restrictions will be imposed on unvaccinated children.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said this was to boost the confidence of parents as the ministry was aware that many of them were taking a wait-and-see approach before enrolling their children in PICKids.

“So far, 15 per cent (of the total cohort of children eligible for the vaccination) were registered after the vaccination appointment booking was opened yesterday. It is on a voluntary basis, to give the parents time to make an informed decision,”

“I know many parents are still worried, but it’s okay, we will continue providing them with the latest information,” he told a press conference after launching PICKids at Tunku Azizah Hospital here today.

Khairy said PICKids was important to prevent the children from Multisystem Inflammation Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) complications, long COVID and death, as 9,413 cases of COVID-19 involving unvaccinated children aged seven to 11 were recorded since Jan 1 this year.

He said the Ministry of Health (MOH) did not make the decision to use Comirnaty 10mcg Concentrate for Dispersion (PfizerBioNTech) vaccine for PICKids in haste as clinical and real-world data from other countries such as Singapore had been carefully studied prior to making the decision.

“Actually, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved the vaccine for children last October, but our experts had taken extra time to make some research,” he said.

Based on the research data, he said the vaccine for the children, which is one-third of the adult dose, will not cause serious side effects, but only the common ones, such as fever.

Describing PICKids as the “last piece of the puzzle” to the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme, the minister said MOH targetted to give one dose of the vaccine to 70 per cent of children at school (aged seven to 11) within the next two months and 50 per cent of the total cohort of 3.6 million children aged five to 11 by end of this month.

PICKids kicked off simultaneously across the country today for children with comorbidities and immunocompromised children that are under the low immunity group.

The vaccine will be given to children in those categories at the treating hospital.

Apart from that, the children would also receive their vaccine through appointment booking at three mega integration vaccination centres namely at the World Trade Centre (WTC) Kuala Lumpur, Axiata Arena Bukit Jalil and Ideal Convention Centre (IDCC) Shah Alam.

Khairy said the implementation of PICKids will be expanded to health clinics and schools soon. - Bernama