Press

Minister of Health’s Press Conference 20 January 2022 - Current Situation of Coronavirus Infection 2019 (COVID-19)

PRESS STATEMENT

MINISTRY OF HEALTH MALAYSIA

COVID-19 VACCINATION PROGRAM FOR CHILDREN AGED 5 TO 11 YEARS

  • Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has been monitoring the status of COVID-19 infection, especially in adolescents and children.
  • For the period 25 January 2020 to 19 January 2022, the total number of COVID-19 cases involving individuals under the age of 18 was 579,624 cases. Of these, a total of 269,773 cases involved children aged 5 to 11 years.
  • Although children usually experience only mild symptoms, there are also a number of children who experience severe symptoms and require treatment in hospitals, including in the intensive care units (ICUs).
  • During this same period, 144 deaths were recorded due to COVID-19 infection among individuals aged 18 years and below. Of these, 31 deaths involved children aged 5 to 11 years.
  • Recently, there has been an increase in COVID-19 infection among children, especially after the re-opening of schools in early 2022. In addition, the new Omicron variant is found to be more infectious and has a high potential to infect children as well as adults.
  • Data obtained from countries affected by the Omicron variant also showed an increase in hospital admissions among children.
  • Apart from the risk of Long-COVID disease, children infected with COVID-19 are also at high risk for developing a serious complication known as Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).
  • MIS-C can affect one in 3,200 children infected with COVID-19. These children can experience very severe symptoms such as prolonged fever, low blood pressure, seizures and inflammation of various organs including the heart (myocarditis), lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, intestinal tract and others.
  • Besides these conditions, the children population also faces disruption in their lives, particularly in schooling and education. This, in turn, has a detrimental effect on the psychology and social development of these children as a whole.
  • Looking at the need to protect the children population, the MOH, through the Malaysian Drug Control Authority (DCA), has analysed the safety and efficacy data and has granted conditional approval to Comirnaty® 10 mcg Concentrate for Dispersion Vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech) on 6 January 2022 for the use of children aged 5 to 11 years.
  • This mRNA vaccine has undergone rigorous and thorough clinical studies to ensure the vaccine’s quality, safety, and efficacy. The results of clinical studies of the vaccine showed the effectiveness of 90.7% and have proven to induce a high immune response to COVID-19 disease.
  • However, like other vaccines, the Comirnaty® vaccine specially formulated for children can also cause side effects that children commonly experience, such as pain at the injection site, redness and swelling, and systemic reactions including fatigue and dizziness, muscle aches, chills and fever. Most of the side effects of this vaccine are mild to moderate, and short-lived.
  • The COVID-19 vaccination program for children aged 5 to 11 years using the unique formulation Comirnaty® vaccine for children has also been implemented in several countries, including the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia and Singapore. The Real-World Data reported that the incidence of myocarditis or heart muscle inflammation after mRNA vaccination is very low.
  • The United States has administered nearly 8.7 million doses of this vaccine using the special formulation for children. Preliminary data on Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI) has found that the incidence of AEFI is significantly lower than the incidence of AEFI among adolescents aged 12 to 17 years.
  • Looking at the need to ensure the safety of children who will be receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, the MOH will constantly monitor the latest developments, particularly the AEFI patterns at the global level.
  • This COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for children aged 5 to 11 years. However, the priority for vaccination at the start of the program is to children with health problems due to their risk for severe sequelae of the COVID-19 infection, including hospitalisation and admission into ICUs, as well as death. These health problems include:
    • Chronic respiratory diseases
    • Cardiovascular diseases
    • Immunosuppression
    • Diabetes
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Neurological diseases
  • For information, the COVID-19 Comirnaty® vaccine formulation used in the vaccination program is a special formulation for children and supplied in a 10-dose vial (with orange lid) and should be mixed with 1.3 mL of normal saline solution. Each dose given will be 0.2 mL and contain 10 mcg of mRNA vaccine. This dose is one-third of the adult dose.
  • This children vaccination program requires two doses of the vaccine with an interval of eight (8) weeks after the first dose.
  • Based on the latest data obtained, an interval of eight (8) weeks between two doses will induce an immune response with a higher efficacy rate and the potential to provide longer protection. In addition, the data also showed that this time interval can reduce the risk of myocarditis and have been recommended by health authorities around the world, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
  • Based on the data and views of the Technical Working Group (TWG) and the panel of authors of the Clinical Guidelines for COVID-19 Children Vaccination, the MOH will start administering the COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to under 12 years in February 2022. The Comirnaty® Vaccine (for children) is expected to arrive in Malaysia on 31 January 2022.
  • The launch of the vaccination program for children aged 5 to under 12 years will be held on 3 February 2022 at Tunku Azizah Hospital, Kuala Lumpur.
  • The appointment booking system through the MySejahtera will be opened at the end of January 2022. Parents can start to register their children as dependents in their MySejahtera application.
  • The vaccination appointment bookings for children aged 5 to under 12 years will be opened in stages starting 31 January 2022 for parents living in the Klang Valley initially.
  • Details on access to the appointment booking system will be announced in the near future.
  • The COVID-19 Immunisation Special Task Force for Children (CITF-C), chaired by the Deputy Minister of Health 1, YB Dato’ Dr Noor Azmi bin Ghazali, held its first meeting on 19 January 2022.
  • The role of the CITF-C is to formulate policies, coordinate operational strategies, identify gaps, address needs, and monitor the progress of the COVID-19 Children Immunisation Program (PICKids).
  • I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to employers to provide unrecorded leave to parents who bring their children for vaccination and to monitor their children’s health after the vaccination.
  • The MOH targets 70% of children aged 5 to under 12 years in the education system to be given the first dose of the Comirnaty® vaccine (children) within two months from the date the program is launched, and 80% is expected to receive their full dose within six months of implementation.

SALE OF VACCINATION CERTIFICATES

  • The Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) has successfully concluded investigations on several premises of private medical practitioners allegedly involved in the sale of fake vaccination certificates.
  • The investigations reviewed by the MOH with the PDRM found that so far, all of the cases detected involved the implementation of purchased vaccinations were conducted by the private sector (Private Purchase Vaccination).
  • According to the national guidelines, all vaccination processes carried out by PICK and Private Purchase must be reported to the MOH through the MyVAS system for record and issuance of vaccination certificates. However, in these incidents, the private medical practitioners involved had submitted fake vaccination reports to the MOH.
  • Currently, investigations are still being carried out by PDRM, and the MOH will provide full cooperation.

TRAVEL STATUS FOR UMRAH PILGRIMAGE

  • Yesterday, 19 January 2022, the MOH and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) held an engagement session with the Association of Travel Agencies (Umrah) to get feedback on the next steps by the umrah industry, following the temporary suspension decision in force.
  • Among the issues raised by the umrah tourism industry players during the discussion yesterday includes SOPs related to implementing umrah travel, refund issues and flight rescheduling, insurance coverage, the timeline for reopening umrah travel and the economic assistance to the tourism industry to assist in their recovery.
  • During the session, the Minister of MOTAC and I expressed our commitment to detail and refine each issue and proposal submitted, at the respective ministry levels, before presenting solution proposals to the next COVID-19 Ministerial Quartet Meeting.
  • These issues include the screening process upon arrival at the KLIA International Port of Entry, the implementation of quarantine either at quarantine stations or at homes, and the role of umrah travel agencies before, during and after performing umrah.
  • On the subject of the reopening timeline for umrah travel, both ministries are committed to finalising the risk assessment process and SOPs for umrah travel by mid-February this year.
  • The MOH hopes that all industry players can give their full cooperation to ensure that umrah activities can continue to be carried out safely.

REDUCTION OF QUARANTINE PERIOD FOR TRAVELLERS FROM ABROAD

  • The MOH has implemented isolation orders on travellers entering Malaysia from abroad, including Malaysian citizens, permanent residents, expatriates or diplomatic corps or any other foreigners authorised by the Director-General of Immigration.
  • This order is enforced under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 [Act 342] to control the transmission of the COVID-19 infection.
  • Based on data, science and experience of other countries related to the management of the entry of travellers from abroad, the MOH has re-evaluated the period of surveillance and observation and has decided on the latest regulations as follows:
  • Travellers who have received a Booster Dose
    • Quarantine period: 5 days
    • Testing required:
      • COVID-19 RT-PCR: two (2) days before departure, with a negative result for COVID-19
      • COVID-19 RT-PCR on the day of arrival
      • RT-PCR on Day-4 OR RTK Ag supervised by a healthcare worker on Day-5, with a negative result
  • Quarantine Release
    • Quarantine release on Day-5 if RT-PCR test on day-4 OR RTK Ag supervised by a healthcare worker on day-5 is negative.
  • No Booster Dose but COMPLETED VACCINATION
    • Quarantine period: 7 days
    • Testing required:
      • COVID-19 RT-PCR performed two (2) days before departure, with a negative result
      • COVID-19 RT-PCR on the day of arrival
      • RT-PCR on Day-5 OR RTK Ag supervised by a healthcare worker on Day-7
    • Quarantine Release:
      • Quarantine release on Day-7 if the RT-PCR OR RTK Ag test supervised by a healthcare worker on Day-7 is negative
  • NO / HAVE NOT received complete vaccination
    • Quarantine period:10 days
    • Testing required: COVID-19 RT-PCR performed two (2) days before departure, with a negative result
    • COVID-19 RT-PCR on the day of arrival
    • RT-PCR on Day-8 OR RTK Ag supervised by a healthcare worker on Day-10
  • Quarantine Release:
    • Quarantine release on Day-10 if the Day-8 RT-PCR OR RTK Ag supervised by a healthcare worker on Day-10 is negative.
  • In addition, as a measure to improve the work process at the International Ports of Entry (PMA), the MOH also made the following decisions:
    • All travellers arriving from abroad will be given a digital HSO. Therefore, travellers no longer need to wear regular surveillance bracelets (pink colour).
    • However, travellers who arrive from high-risk countries and undergo quarantine at their home or residence will still need to wear digital surveillance bracelets.
  • The reduction of the quarantine period for travellers from abroad will take effect on Monday, 24 January 2022.
  • Meanwhile, the MOH also agreed to remove temperature scanners from the SOPs. This proposal will be brought to the National Security Council (NSC) meeting to notify and update the official SOP document of the National Recovery Plan.

EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION CLUSTERS SITUATION 2022

  • From the Epidemiological Week 1 of 2022 to 19 January 2022, there were 52 educational institution clusters, involving 30 secondary school clusters (57.7%). Of these 30 secondary schools, 27 (90.0%) are boarding schools.
  • The schooling session has re-started on 9 January 2022 and 10 January 2022. This crowding of individuals has increased the risk of transmission of infection resulting in 15 clusters in schools in the first week of schooling.
  • In the second week of schooling, educational institution clusters have doubled to 33 clusters. All states have reported clusters except for Perlis, Terengganu, Sarawak and WP Labuan.
  • For the 52 educational institution clusters that have been reported since the first week of 2022, investigations found 44 clusters with students as the index cases; teachers or lecturers were index cases for five (5) clusters; and support staff for three (3) more clusters.
  • The MOH has also emphasised to the Education Sector:
    • The importance of screening students, teachers and staff before entering the school/institution;
    • RTK Ag testing on students, teachers and staff based on the current COVID-19 national testing strategy;
    • Empowerment of parents to monitor their child’s health and refrain from sending children to school if they have symptoms or are unwell; and
    • Conduct a risk assessment for COVID-19 infection transmission in their respective institutions from time to time so that preventive measures can be taken immediately.
  • The MOH would also like to remind all District Health Officers that if the school or educational institution reports positive cases, investigation and risk assessment should be carried out to assess the transmission status of the infection.
  • In addition, cleaning and disinfection, as well as contact tracing, should be carried out, in addition to the implementation of COVID-19 control and prevention activities.
  • MOH will soon hold discussions with the MOE and MOHE to strengthen control and prevention activities of COVID-19 infection in educational institutions.

KHAIRY JAMALUDDIN

Minister of Health

20 January 2022