KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — The vaccination of all students who will sit for major examinations next year is deemed the best ‘way out’, to enable them to return to school immediately even though the country is still battling a high number of daily COVID-19 cases.
The announcement by National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme Coordinating Minister Khairy Jamaluddin on Friday is certainly good news for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) 2021 candidates, to attend learning sessions at school till the examination.
The first dose of the government-approved Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty vaccine, for children aged 12 and above, is expected to be administered to examination candidates in mid-July.
Surely this effort also provides relief to teachers and parents to help improve preparations of the affected students, who had to follow the home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) method prior to this.
Vaccination is the best shield for students, especially for candidates who will sit for examinations, to protect them from severe complications of the COVID-19 infection, said Universiti Teknologi Mara Sungai Buloh’s Faculty of Medicine’s Infectious Diseases Unit head, Dr Rosnida Mohd Noh.
Although the findings show that the COVID-19 symptoms faced by children up to 17 years old are milder than adults, the vaccination will boost the students’ confidence that they are protected before returning to school.
She explained that students also have no need to worry about the vaccine’s side effects, such as fever and headaches that some vaccine recipients may experience, as these were only temporary in nature.
“By not getting vaccinated, the risk of COVID-19 infection is greater and can cause acute effects in the long run.
“Most importantly, when students receive the vaccine, it will indirectly reduce disruption to the learning process, so students can continue their school sessions as usual,” she told Bernama.
Dr Rosnida said that based on the current situation and disclosure of information related to vaccines through various media channels, students are now seen to be more confident that the vaccination programme could be implemented successfully.
“Generally, students who will sit for examinations such as SPM and STPM are intelligent and mature enough in finding accurate information about vaccines from verified sources.
“They can make their own decisions and I think they (will) be more open to receiving the vaccine,” she added.
On the other hand, Dr Anuar Ahmad, a lecturer at the Centre of Community Education and Wellbeing, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, is of the view that vaccination of examination candidates should be more targeted.
He explained that such an approach is necessary for students in need to be vaccinated first to ensure the continuity of learning.
“An estimated 500,0000 students will sit for SPM and STPM this year.
“Due to the large numbers and limited time, it should be made clear who will be the target (students). Which group of students should be given priority… urban or rural students?” he asked.
Anuar said that if vaccination is to be carried out in stages, rural students having difficulty accessing the internet should be given priority.
He said that the move was necessary so that the students could continue face-to-face learning sessions at school.
“Meanwhile, groups that have internet access can temporarily continue with online learning. It is hoped that vaccination will be expedited and expanded for other students (non-examination candidates).
“I am sure most students will sign up to be vaccinated because young people (usually) have a better understanding of the importance of vaccines for their health,” he added.