PETALING JAYA: The low vaccination rate among children aged between five and 11 is a concern amid Malaysia’s gradual transition to endemicity, say health experts.

They said the low take-up rate was worrying not only due to the risk of children contracting severe symptoms from Covid-19 but also the possibility of the unvaccinated ones experiencing complications from Multiple Systemic Inflammation Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia health economics, hospital and health management’s Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh said the symptoms of MIS-C included prolonged fevers, delirium and skin rash.

“Given that cases of dengue and hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) bear similar symptoms and are also on the rise, it can be hard to truly gauge what ailment a person has unless he seeks medical attention.

“Due to the similarities, the best course of action is for parents to send children with such symptoms for treatment as it allows medical professionals to perform the necessary tests and provide treatment accordingly,” she said.

She cautioned that MIS-C could lead to severe long-term complications if left untreated as some patients might end up being unable to walk.

Unvaccinated children faced greater risks of complications due to MIS-C, while those with either one or two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had a lower risk, she said.

“Given that the vaccination rate among those aged five to 11 is still low in addition to the full resumption of face-to-face schooling sessions, the risks of contracting Covid-19 and developing MIS-C are greater.

“Hence, it is best for all children to be vaccinated as a means of protection against both Covid-19 and to mitigate the risk of getting MIS-C,” she said.

As of May 13, only 45.5% of children aged between five and 11 had received one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine while only 28.7% of the group received both jabs.

Consultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS said there was a great risk – especially among younger children – of getting MIS-C after contracting Covid-19.

“This can cause organs including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain and skin, among others, to be inflamed,” he said, adding that it was a delayed immune response towards the infection.

He said that in addition to the risk of getting MIS-C from a Covid-19 infection, contracting long Covid was also a reality among children, adding that it had affected thousands worldwide.

“Long Covid similarly impairs children’s learning and can delay a return to school for several months,” he said.

Dr Amar also noted that vaccination against Covid-19 was shown to have significantly reduced the risk of getting MIS-C while simultaneously decreasing the risk of long Covid by 50%.

“Apart from those who are eligible, children who are in the high-risk category are also strongly urged to get vaccinated,” he said.