Teens look forward to being jabbed

By Petronella Langita Felix

KUCHING: Do you know that you are a possible carrier of the Covid-19 virus? Yes, you — the people who go back and forth between home and workplace on a daily basis.

While the adolescents are indoors most of the time — given the higher risks of contracting the virus if they were to go out — their parents and working adults who are exposed to the world outside will come home to them at the end of the day.

That is exactly how vaccinated, working adults could end up becoming carriers to their loved ones, especially children and teenagers, who stay at home most of the time.

After all, students are now attending online classes after schools in Malaysia were forced to shut down due to the spike in the number of cases at the end of April this year. The students are mostly adolescents, aged 12 and 17 years old.

The government had, on July 22, announced through the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF), that this aged group was not allowed to get the Covid-19 vaccination until further notice.

It said the decision was to avoid risks of post-vaccination complications, such as myocarditis and pericarditis, among the adolescents. The decision, however, received mixed reactions from Malaysian teenagers.

On Friday, however, coordinating Minister for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) Khairy Jamaluddin announced that the government would start vaccinating adolescents aged 12 and 17 soon.

He said PICK would start vaccinations with the following priority order which included 12 and 17 years old with underlying medical conditions, and 12 to 17 years old with no medical issued based on age de-escalation.

Khairy said this was based on recommendation by the health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah to the Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Special Committee (JKJAV).

Faizuzzikri

Faizuzzikri Suhiri, 16, who’s living with working family members, is excited and looking forward to being jabbed. 

The youngest child in the family said that his family members were disciplined when it came to personal hygiene.

They were extra careful because he was the only person in the household who had not been vaccinated yet.

“Even the vaccinated are still at risk of contracting the deadly virus from their surroundings, let alone people like us who are still ineligible for the Covid-19 vaccination,” said Faizuzzikri.

Nur Adira Fahani

SPM candidate, Nur Adira Fahani Mohd Nor Hayat fears the vaccine side effects despite acknowledging its importance for safety and health reasons.

The 17-year-old said that her family members were very responsible when it came to self-hygiene. 

“As soon as they reach home, they will immediately bathe and take other necessary precautions,” Nur Adira said.

Aimi Humaira Abdullah Mohamad Yusman Affendi Carrol also said her parents were very strict when it came to self-hygiene.

They knew Aimi and her younger siblings were at risk of contracting the virus from their surroundings.

“I think there are still people who do not take this virus seriously … so it is terrifying for my siblings and I to even step out of the front door because we may run into neighbours whose recent movements are unknown,” said Aimi.

Alvira Awint said that her fear skyrocketed when the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) announced the presence of the deadly Delta variant.

“The variant is highly contagious, especially for people like us who are yet to be vaccinated; the fact that our schoolwork requires us to go out to look for supplies does not help at all,” she said.

The SPM candidate also claimed that sometimes she had to confront family members who failed to take necessary precautions such as showering as soon as they reached home.

“I know some studies claimed that adolescents were not prone to getting infected by the virus. But everyone has to be aware that the virus is mutating and there is no guarantee that anyone is safe, especially the unvaccinated like us,” she added.

Phoebe Janta

Echoing her opinion, Phoebe Janta Felix, said, “I am the only person in my household who have not been vaccinated yet while four of my family members are working outside. So, when they don’t take self-hygiene seriously, I have to remind them that I am at risk of getting infected.”

Phoebe also said the government’s earlier decision to postpone the vaccination was quite frustrating.

Now, she is looking forward to getting the jab.

“I was actually more excited about the possibilities of going back to school when they announced the vaccination. It is hard to keep up with online learning,” she explained.

Prior to the decision to put vaccination on hold for Malaysians aged 12 to 17 years old, the Malaysia Education Ministry announced in a press statement dating back to July 17 this year that schools were to reopen in stages for physical teaching and learning starting September 1.

Another student who looks forward to the reopening of schools soon is Garybadi Manjah Teddy. 

“We are more exposed at home compared to the boarding houses. But prior to reopening the school for exam classes, the SPM candidates must be vaccinated first.

“At home, we have working parents and although my parents are always taking precautions, especially in terms of hygiene, I still have fear of contracting the virus from — for example — their clothes or their belongings,” he added.

Manjah said he was also looking forward to getting vaccinated because he could barely keep up with online learning at home.

“I find it hard to stay focused at home, with chores and younger siblings to take care of alongside endless schoolwork and projects to work on.”

Meanwhile, Geethresa Stacy Nelsion said that her working family members adhered to one principle — ‘mandi selepas keluar’ (Shower after coming from outside).

“It’s basically a ground rule of our household since the beginning of the pandemic and everyone who has been out of the house has to take a shower immediately after they come home.”

Geethresa said that although the principle kept her at ease most of the time, she could not help worrying about contracting the virus from her family members.

“They are exposed to Covid-19 virus while they are outside, but lucky for them that they are vaccinated and have lower risk of getting infected.

“I am unvaccinated and prone to contracting the virus from them,” she explained.