What children – and parents – can expect from Thailand’s vaccination drive for kids

(Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

Children aged 12 and up will soon be rolling up their sleeves for a jab against COVID-19, which has already claimed more than 14,500 lives in Thailand.

The Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) recently announced its drive to vaccinate all children, provided parents agree. While many parents are praying for their children to get inoculated as soon as possible, some can’t help but worry about the possible dangerous side effects.

Several medical associations, including the Royal College of Pediatricians, have recommended that children above the age 16 or those with health risks get COVID jabs. As for healthy kids aged 12 to 16, associations prefer to consult more researches before making a recommendation.

CCSA spokesman Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin has clarified that parents’ consent is mandatory for a child to get a government-provided COVID-19 jab.

Pfizer – vaccine of choice for kids

Following in the footsteps of Europe and the United States, Thailand has cleared Pfizer as the vaccine of choice for children aged 12 and above.

Two doses of the mRNA vaccine can be administered 21 days apart, or up to six weeks apart if necessary.

According to Mayo Clinic, a non-profit academic medical center in the US, research shows that the Pfizer- vaccine is 100 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 infection in children aged 12 to 15.

The vaccine is 91 percent effective in preventing severe illness from COVID-19 in people aged 16 and older. Early research also suggests that the vaccine is 96 percent effective in preventing severe symptoms from Delta, the dominant variant in Thailand.

Do benefits outweigh risks?

Though the Pfizer vaccine has clear benefits and is outstandingly efficient, there are concerns about its side effects, especially among the youth.

US researchers have suggested that healthy boys are more likely to develop a rare side-effect from the Pfizer jab – inflammation of the heart – than be hospitalized with COVID-19. Their analysis of medical data collected over a four-month period suggests that boys aged 12 to 15, with no underlying medical conditions, are four to six times more likely to be diagnosed with vaccine-related myocarditis than ending up in a hospital with COVID.

Most children who developed this side-effect had symptoms within days of getting a second shot of Pfizer. Similar side-effects have been reported with the Moderna jab.

A user’s guide to Thailand’s new digital health pass

Thailand has launched its very own “digital health pass” via the Public Health Ministry’s Mohpromt application, and all residents of the country are advised to download it. The health pass, which has already been adopted by most domestic airlines, will soon become mandatory for users of everyday venues and services.

Any alternatives for the young?

The Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for children aged 12 and above. Moderna is an alternative for those willing to pay in Thailand; another is Sinopharm.

Biogenetech International, which imports Sinopharm, is currently seeking permission for the vaccine to be used for children aged three and above.

As an inactivated vaccine, Sinopharm has milder side effects than Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, both of which were produced using innovative mRNA technology. Vaccines developed with this technology instruct our cells to make a protein, which then triggers an immune response inside the body.

The United Arab Emirates last month approved the use of Sinopharm vaccines for children aged three and up.

Inoculation schedule for kids

The government plans to roll out the vaccination drive from next month in schools, starting with high schoolers and vocational school students.

Once older children are inoculated, the drive will shift to younger children.

The authorities plan to inform parents of the vaccines’ benefits and side effects before seeking their permission for their children to be jabbed.

“Vaccination is not mandatory, it will be done on a voluntary basis,” Taweesin said.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, meanwhile, plans to prioritize at-risk children, such as those with obesity, diabetes, or cancer.

As for Sinopharm, the Chulabhorn Royal Academy is set to start inoculating students aged between 10 and 18, on September 20 in the hope it will enable students to return to school life as normal.

Since COVID-19 hit Thailand in early 2019, millions of students in Thailand have had to attend classes online.

By Thai PBS World’s General Desk

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