KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 ― Some 300 people were waiting outside the Dewan Sivik MBPJ in Petaling Jaya, Selangor about 9am today as the government opened up Covid-19 vaccination for adolescents.
The youthful faces in the queue were a mix of trepidation and eagerness. Some teenagers were overheard wondering aloud if they would get a fever or any other side-effect after the injection today while others said they could not wait to complete the double-dose for full protection so they could return to school learning or go out and meet their friends and extended family again.
For the accompanying parents, it was mostly relief that the children were finally getting their vaccine, especially as the daily cases in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur combined were still numbering over 2,000.
“My goodness, I don't know how to express how happy and thankful I am that my son is vaccinated, so thankful, so thankful,” 51-year-old Hanim Mat Doh who was accompanying her son Haziq Aiman, told Malay Mail when met.
“He has been cooped up at home and isolated from his friends from school. At least this way, he can go back to school to be with his friends in a relatively safe environment from Covid-19.
“But most of all, he misses his extended family back in Ipoh. Despite all of our families and extended families being vaccinated, he has not seen his cousin for nearly two years. Such a pity that he is not able to meet them face-to-face after such a long time. Everyone is looking forward to when they can balik kampung again,” she said as the 17-year-old standing beside her looked away bashfully.
Hanim and Haziq were among the students, parents and even foreign nationals seeking to get vaccinated at the Dewan Sivik MBPJ earlier this morning after the government opened up walk-ins for the youth vaccination programme.
There had been some confusion among the first arrivals this morning as the guardians and their young charges appeared unsure of where to line up and where to go due to a lack of signages.
But the public health officials and police officers on duty were alert and quickly helped direct the hesitant parents and children to the proper lanes as the crowd grew bigger over time.
Not all of the teenagers who were waiting their turn were still schooling as Malay Mail learnt.
Hirsyam Ali Rahmat was one who had decided to work at a logistic company to support his family for the past year.
“It is not that I hate school but I have to work to survive. So far all my colleagues have been vaccinated and I have not. There is a risk to me and my brother and mother as I travel for work. So getting vaccinated today is a god sent and I can't wait for my second dose,” the 17-year-old said.
Hirsyam was accompanied by his younger brother Hijaz Ali Rahmat and their mother.
Hijaz, who is attending school at a local madrasah, expressed some concern at returning to classroom learning and the risks it entails, but was eager to meet his friends soon once he is vaccinated.
“I'm really looking forward to being back at school. Studying online, although it has its perks, but I’d rather see everyone face-to-face,” the16-year-old told Malay Mail.
A similar good-sized crowd was observed at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil that had been designated as a Covid-19 vaccination centre for adolescents and walk-ins.
Malay Mail observed around 200 people consisting of families, teenagers, couples and some foreigners lining up outside the arena at about 8am.
Among them was Mohd Faizal was here early with his son Ahmad Rasdan and their neighbour Mohd Shafiq Abdul Rahim.
Both Shafiq and Rasdan are in Form Five in the same school and had their appointments at 10am.
“We said come early and fill up the forms but we sure didn't expect so many people here. Best to stand away from the crowd,” said Faizal as he kept a close eye on the distance between him and the next person in the queue.
Faizal said he noticed a lot of people who appeared to be walk-ins joining the queue with those who received appointments, causing congestion at the entry points.
He felt that the authorities could have separated the two groups and improved on the signages.
With SPM around the corner, Faizal said that he, like most parents, will have to reevaluate their expectations when it comes to their children's academic scores.
He added that the two years lost to Covid-19 made a lot of things unpredictable.
“They can study, they do the work but can they perform when it matters? I believe we have to manage our expectations.
“Then we have to consider what they can do after their exams are over, so for now let's get this vaccine done and dusted so they can get back to school.”
Rasdan and Shafiq admitted they had enjoyed the time away from school but it was time to head back and get serious about their exams.
Nigel Chong and his daughter Corrine who were leaving the arena after her vaccination said the appointment was given from the school, SMK Seri Saujana, only yesterday in the afternoon.
“I am glad for this because I don't like learning from home. It's hard, better go back to school and learn as it’s been two years I've missed.
“As for my SPM I think I can do well because I've been studying,” the fifth former told Malay Mail.
Nigel, threw a meaningful look at Corrine, and said he was still worried about her studies.
He explained that many parents had to adapt when their children were forced to study from home, and added that with schools reopening soon, he is adopting a “wait-and-see how things develop” attitude.
By 8.45am, the crowd at the Axiata Arena had ballooned to 300 people.
Though there were RELA members on hand to guide the new arrivals, the large numbers caused a congestion as those who just came in were unsure where to go.
One such parent was Rahman Dahlian who had just parked his car and rushed up to Malay Mail, mistaking this reporter for a Rela member.
He said he was in a hurry and had to get both his children vaccinated and rush to send his older child, an 18-year-old university student back to campus today. The younger child was 17 and was heading to Russia to further her studies.
“He's in University Putra Malaysia and needs to get back to university while my daughter needs to go to Russia for pre-med.
“We just walked in. I'm not sure where to stand,” he offered sheepishly after apologising for his mistake.
The National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme for adolescents started on September 20 and aims to fully vaccinate 3.2 million Malaysians aged 12 to 17 nationwide before the end of the year.
Despite their vaccination status, the education ministry has assured students and parents that no child will be refused entry into schools, however stated that steps will be taken to counsel parents who are hesitant to allow their children to be vaccinated.
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