Sarawak to offer Covid-19 vaccines to 16, 17-year-olds first

A chart comparing Sarawak and Malaysia Covid-19 case trend.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Sept 2: Youths aged 16 to 17 in Sarawak will soon be offered the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to provide them with vital protection against the virus.

Minister for Local Government and Housing Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian explained that it would then be opened up to those aged 12 to 15.

While the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) has approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12 and older in Malaysia, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has yet to give the green light to begin the vaccination drive for those in this age bracket.

With about 29 per cent of Sarawak’s population aged below 18, Dr Sim said Sarawak wants to proceed with vaccination for young people as fast as possible.

“And probably, eventually (to vaccinate children) three to 11-years-old. NPRA needs to give approval soon to save lives,” he shared in a social media post last night.

Dr Sim, who is also State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) advisor, pointed out that as vaccinations rise, Sarawak too is preparing to move on from the Covid-19 pandemic into the endemic phase to live with the disease, just like Singapore and the United Kingdom, albeit cautiously.

An endemic is a disease that consistently exists among people or areas that could harm and even kill people, but it does not wholly disrupt and shut down society.

“Thanks to everyone’s extraordinary efforts in vaccination starting (aggressively) in June, Sarawak is likely to move into the endemic stage to live with the virus like what YB KJ (Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin) mentioned by the end of August.

“(It means maintaining) high vaccination drive, vigilance, embracing new norms of living for the foreseeable future with regular testing whenever necessary,” he said.

As of yesterday (Sept 1), Sarawak has hit a high vaccination coverage with 87.2 per cent of the adult population or 1,780,249 individuals fully vaccinated, while 90.7 per cent or 1,853,358 individuals have received at least one dose of vaccines.

While it is unlikely for Sarawak to have 100 per cent of its adult population fully vaccinated considering factors like vaccine hesitancy as well as those with specific health or medical conditions that render them unable to be vaccinated, Dr Sim however emphasised that maximum vaccination remained the key for any state or country to get on with lives and for economy recovery.

Vaccination, he said, provides vital protection against death, severe illness and hospitalisation.

“As a result of vaccination, despite the Delta variant causing a surge in daily cases as we continue to encourage more testings, the number of Covid-19 deaths in Sarawak has actually dropped significantly compared to the rest of Malaysia.

“Therefore, there is no need to panic by the number of new cases post-vaccination era but we do need to remain alert so as to slow the rate of transmission, not to overwhelm our healthcare facilities, hospital beds and ICU (intensive care units) as well as to avoid stretching our medical frontliners too thin,” he added. — DayakDaily