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Living with Covid-19: Some parents stopping vaccine boosters for children, others will ‘wait and see’

SINGAPORE — Ms Ai Leen Fung, a mother of three, is adopting a wait-and-see approach before giving her children the Covid-19 vaccine booster.

A child in Singapore getting vaccinated against Covid-19 in 2021.

A child in Singapore getting vaccinated against Covid-19 in 2021.

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  • Some parents do not see the need to let their children get more Covid-19 vaccine boosters now that Singapore is living with the disease
  • Others are adopting a wait-and-see approach before deciding to do so
  • The World Health Organization advised in March that a primary vaccination and a booster dose are recommended for children and adolescents with health risks
  • In Singapore, data showed that unvaccinated children who contract Covid-19 had a higher risk of needing hospitalisation
  • Infectious diseases experts said that younger children are at lower risk of contracting Covid-19, but they can still spread it to others and vaccine boosters can help reduce disease spread 

SINGAPORE — Ms Ai Leen Fung, a mother of three, is adopting a wait-and-see approach before giving her children the Covid-19 vaccine booster.

The 38-year-old commercial analyst said that since her oldest child, who is six years old, is already vaccinated, she will let her child take the booster shot “when the time comes”.

However, she is not ready yet to let her two younger children, aged three years and five months respectively, get vaccinated and receive a booster shot, adding that she is waiting to see if there are any reported cases of side effects before deciding.

“I’m just more cautious about Covid-19 vaccinations for kids because (the vaccines) are new,” Ms Fung said. 

Last October, the Ministry of Health (MOH) opened vaccinations to children aged six months to four years old, after the Moderna vaccine was approved for children in this age bracket last August.

The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine was later approved last September for children aged between six months and four years old.

Ms Fung vaccinated her oldest child against Covid-19 at the end of last year to also protect her youngest, who was a newborn at the time, against getting infected through her older sibling. 

Even though there is an infection wave this period, Covid-19 does not seem “as scary as last time”, Ms Fung said, and she is not sure if it is necessary to let her two younger children receive the vaccine and booster.

“Maybe a regular updated flu jab might be more useful,” she added.

Like Ms Fung, some parents in Singapore are holding back on taking their children to get booster jabs, even though MOH has recommended that everyone aged five years and above do so. 

Some parents interviewed by TODAY on Tuesday (May 2) said that they do not see the need for booster shots given that Singapore is living with Covid-19 like influenza, as an endemic disease.

The Government announced in February this year that Singapore would enter a new Covid-19 norm. It lowered the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition framework from yellow to green, which indicated that a disease is mild, or that it is severe but does not spread easily among people. Most Covid-19 regulations such as mask-wearing and safe distancing were also lifted.

Other parents said that they will wait and see before deciding on whether to let their children take the Covid-19 boosters and subsequent jabs.

Infectious diseases experts said that even though younger children are at lower risk of contracting Covid-19, they can still transmit the virus to others, including to those who are more vulnerable such as seniors, so giving them booster vaccinations can also help reduce disease spread and protect others.

In March this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) revised its global Covid-19 vaccination recommendations such that only primary vaccinations and one booster dose is recommended for people in the medium-risk group, which includes children and adolescents with health risks. 

For healthy children who are six months to 17 years old, countries should consider vaccinating based on factors such as disease burden and cost-effectiveness, WHO said.

Shortly after that, MOH said that it is maintaining its Covid-19 vaccination stance for children and adolescents despite the revised recommendations by the global body.

The ministry said data in Singapore showed that the risk of severe coronavirus infection in younger children is generally low, but unvaccinated children who contract Covid-19 had a higher risk of requiring hospitalisation compared to those who were vaccinated. Severe diseases such as pneumonia and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children can also occur in the young who contract Covid-19, it added.


Another parent, Ms Maybel Chong, has given both her children, who are nine and seven years old, the Covid-19 vaccine booster in January this year, but she is still undecided about whether she will have them take any more boosters. 

Ms Chong, a 36-year-old educator and business owner, said that her daughters took the booster shots as a protection, especially since her younger child has a history of asthma and respiratory distress.

Both her daughters have not been infected with the virus yet.

However, Ms Chong is not as keen on giving her children the fourth dose because she felt that they were "quite protected" from the virus with three doses of the vaccine.

“But I think for my younger girl who has a history of asthma, just to err on the side of caution, I may give her an extra shot,” she said. 

Similarly, Mr Gurushankar Sangarathas, who has two daughters aged 14 and seven, did not feel any need for them to take any more boosters.

The 43-year-old senior safety manager said that he interacts with many people as part of his job and has a higher risk of exposure to the coronavirus. That was why he wanted to ensure that his children were protected and took them to get a booster shot last year.

However, with Singapore opening up in the endemic phase now, Mr Gurushankar said that it “doesn’t make sense” to continue with booster shots at a time when contracting the virus has become the norm.

“So even if (my younger daughter) has Covid-19, she will just be adding on to the numbers in Singapore. You get it, you experience it and you just go with it.”

However, Ms Andrea Tay, a 41-year-old financial consultant and mother of two young children, said that she will want her children to take their booster shots regularly because of their medical issues. Her nine-year-old daughter has nutcracker syndrome, a type of vein compression disorder that affects the vein in the left kidney.

Ms Tay also has a five-year-old son. Both her children received their primary vaccine dosage. Her daughter has also had her booster jab, while her son will take his in a year’s time. 

Ms Tay wanted both her children to get the booster shot as their immunity is not as strong as adults. She also felt that the Covid-19 vaccine helped to make the symptoms milder in children.

“Even though studies have shown that Covid-19 doesn’t affect children as much, I don't want to run the risk of anything happening to them if they catch Covid-19.”

She will have them take follow-up booster shots for the same reasons. In particular, Ms Tay said that her daughter is due for a kidney operation in two years’ time. She therefore wants her daughter to take a booster shot as a protection so that she will not contract Covid-19 and delay the operation. 


Infectious diseases experts said that a booster shot is still useful in the current endemic phase for Covid-19 in Singapore. 

Associate Professor Natasha Howard from the National University of Singapore Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health said it ensures that people are protected against the virus given their waning immunity, helps to protect against new virus strains and reduces the spread of the virus as more people travel.

Dr Paul Tambyah, president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, said that it is also a good idea for the whole family, including children, to be up to date with vaccinations to reduce the chances of infecting vulnerable persons in the family such as grandparents.

For at-risk individuals, Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases physician at Rophi Clinic, said that he would advocate repeated booster doses.

And for young and healthy individuals, they will have a “transient benefit” if they take a booster, but they may fall sick again as time goes by.

“Everyone should assess their own risk and make their own informed decision,” he added.

Dr Tambyah said that there is not a lot of supporting data to show that healthy, young adults need four or more doses of the vaccine.

He added that the efficacy of booster shots wane after about one to two months. This means that the protection that booster shots offer for Covid-19 is "relatively short".

He therefore recommended booster shots for people who want short-term protection such as before travelling abroad or before a major mass event such as a wedding.

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