SINGAPORE — A 13-month-old boy from Singapore died due to COVID-19 on 12 October, marking the country's first COVID-19 death in a child below the age of 12 this year.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) told CNA on Saturday (25 November) that the baby had tested positive for COVID-19 on 10 October and was admitted to hospital on the same day. He succumbed to acute COVID-19 infection on 12 October.
The infant had not received vaccination against COVID-19. He also had a "significant medical history of a congenital condition" with a poor prognosis even before contracting infection by the coronavirus. MOH said that while the primary cause of death was acute COVID-19 infection, his congenital condition also contributed to the outcome.
3 children died of COVID in 2022
This incident marks Singapore's first COVID-related death in a child below 12 years old in 2023. Last year, three children succumbed to the virus, whereas in 2020 and 2021, no deaths were reported among children due to the virus.
While emphasising that the risk of severe COVID-19 in young children is generally lower compared to older adults, MOH highlighted the potential for severe outcomes, especially in unvaccinated individuals and those who have underlying medical conditions.
The ministry encourages individuals aged six months and above to ensure their COVID-19 vaccination status is up to date, following the prevailing recommendations to safeguard against severe COVID-19 outcomes.
Health Minister addresses misperception on COVID-19 vaccination
During the official opening of Sembawang Polyclinic on Saturday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung addressed "misperceptions" about COVID-19 vaccination and stressed the need to disassociate severe side effects like stroke, cancer, and heart attacks from the vaccine.
He emphasised the importance of correcting this misperception, and said that his ministry has been very transparent about the side effects and risks of all vaccinations. Acknowledging concerns among residents, Ong highlighted that typical side effects from COVID-19 vaccination, such as slight fever or arm ache, are generally mild.
He clarified that while the risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), especially among younger males, is well established, the severe heart-related cases in Singapore arise from long-term poor lifestyle choices, such as excessive salt and sugar intake, lack of exercise, and smoking.
Dissecting health risks from vaccination and lifestyle changes
Ong cautioned against incorrectly linking daily occurrences of stroke, heart attacks and kidney dialysis with vaccination, stressing the need to adopt healthier lifestyles to mitigate these health risks.
"Our problem with chronic illness and rising incidence of cancer is due to our lifestyle over time, and exposing ourselves to risk factors." he explained, advocating that vaccination shields against severe illness during infection waves. "We cannot link the two. If we are really worried about heart attack, cancer and stroke, we should change our lifestyle in time, to live a healthier lifestyle."
Ong also stressed the importance of sustained vaccination efforts, cautioning against potential rebounds in infections in Singapore. "This is also a useful juncture to remind ourselves that if we stop vaccinating, something similar may happen here when protection from previous vaccination wanes. Therefore it is important for us to keep up with our vaccination," he said.
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