KUALA LUMPUR: Parents will not be forced to vaccinate their children against Covid-19 as the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme for Kids (PICKids) is voluntary, says Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said the ministry wants to ensure that parents make an informed decision when they choose to allow their children to receive Covid-19 jabs.

Children will also not be subjected to vaccine mandates like adults, and will be allowed to enter premises even if they are unvaccinated, he added.

“Adults are not allowed to enter eateries or shopping malls if they are not fully vaccinated, but we will not subject children to the same conditions.

“What we want is for parents to be convinced when they decide to vaccinate their children and not feel like they are being forced to do it,” he said at the launch of PICKids at Hospital Tunku Azizah here yesterday.

Khairy, however, said children who do not have vaccine protection are at risk of getting multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) or Long Covid if they are infected with Covid-19.

“Since January, there have been 9,413 Covid-19 cases involving children aged between seven and below 12 years old.

“Although this is not a lot compared to adults, children who are infected are at risk of MIS-C as well as Long Covid, of which we do not know the true effects.

“So the best way to get children to be protected from the effects of Covid-19 is to get them vaccinated,” he said, adding that he has already registered his six-year-old child under PICKids.

Khairy said the Health Ministry and its experts have conducted a thorough study on the children vaccination programme in other countries such as the United States, Singapore and Australia, before approval was given.

“We did not make a hasty decision when agreeing to vaccinate children. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine for children in October.

“Our experts took a few months to study the data produced by the countries who have started vaccinating children.

“It showed that there were not many cases of serious side effects, apart from the mild, common ones like fever,” he added.

To date, Khairy said 15% or more than 500,000 children aged five and under 12 have registered for PICKids.

He said the ministry is aiming for 50% of eligible children to receive their first doses by the end of the month, adding that the country has an ample supply of vaccines for the programme.

PICKids kicked off in the Klang Valley yesterday at several integrated vaccination centres (PPV).

Under PICKids, children will be receiving the Cominarty vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech, with the dosage lowered to 1/3 of what is given to adults. The interval between two doses has been set at eight weeks.