Benefits of COVID-19 vaccine outweigh risks: Committee

Covid-19 Coronavirus Vaccine. Hand wearing glove, holding a vial and syringe
Covid-19 Coronavirus Vaccine. Hand wearing glove, holding a vial and syringe. (PHOTO: Getty)

SINGAPORE — The Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination on Monday (28 June) rebutted an open letter by five doctors circulating on social media calling for a stop in the COVID-19 vaccination of youths.

Acknowledging the rare risk of myocarditis and pericarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle and the outer lining of the heart, the committee said it stands by its previous assessment that the benefits of receiving the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the risks of vaccination.

"A meta-analysis of 129 studies from 31 countries involving 10,251 children found that 22.9 per cent of children diagnosed with COVID-19 had been admitted to the intensive care unit, and 3.6 per cent died," said the committee in a statement posted on the Ministry of Health's website.

"In the US alone, of the around 4 million children infected with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen around 380 reported cases of deaths in the age group 12 to 17 years, and COVID-19 in the young can result in Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and other prolonged disability," it added.

And with the more transmissible Delta variant associated with more severe disease circulating, it is imperative that children be protected with two full vaccine doses, said the committee. Studies show that just one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine only offers 33 per cent protection against this variant, it added.

The open letter had cited reports of investigations by the US Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) into the death of a 13-year-old boy after being vaccinated with the second dose of an mRNA vaccine. The doctors alleged that the boy died from heart failure and highlighted news reports of the association between myocarditis and a second dose of the mRNA vaccines in young men.

However, the committee pointed out that the reports did not state death from heart failure and the matter is still under investigation by the US authorities.

"The writers also chose to highlight only one of the presentations to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the CDC, but failed to mention the point stated in its summary slide that 'available data indicate that patients generally recover from symptoms and do well'. They also failed to mention that subsequent discussions at the same meeting went on to support the vaccination of adolescents because the benefits outweighed the risks," the committee added.

The committee also noted that, among others associations, the American College of Paediatrics and the American Heart Association strongly encourage that everyone age 12 and above be vaccinated.

"The Expert Committee continues to recommend the use of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines for young men. However, as a precaution, vaccinated persons, in particular adolescents and younger men, should avoid strenuous physical activity for one week after their second dose," it said.

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