BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – More than 5,000 adolescents received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday, as the country rolls out its COVID-19 vaccination programme for the 12-17 age group.

A total of 38,201 secondary school students are scheduled to be jabbed in the next two weeks (November 8 to 19) at over eight vaccination centres nationwide.

Teen vaccination is key to reopening schools early next year, said the acting director of the Department of Schools, with in-person learning suspended since August 9 due to the current Delta-fuelled outbreak.

“We hope that with this program, those under the Ministry of Education, especially teachers and students can be protected and so that teaching and learning can be done safely,” Zainal Abidin Hj Kepli told reporters.

Department of Schools acting director Zainal Abidin Hj Kepli speaks to the media on the sidelines of the COVID-19 vaccination programme for adolescents aged 12-17 at Indoor Stadium on Nov 8. Photo: Rudolf Portillo/The Scoop

Brunei’s second wave of COVID-19 saw large outbreaks among those under 18, with Chung Hwa Middle School in Belait forming one of the largest clusters to date.

With the vaccination of over-12s, the government hopes to push vaccination coverage to 85 percent of the population.

Parents must consent to the jab and register their children on BruHIMS patient management system before they can receive the shot.

“Although some [parents] were initially reluctant to give their consent, Alhamdulillah with all of our efforts more and more parents came forward to give their consent forms … So we’ll see more and more students getting vaccinated,” Zainal added.

Parents wait with their kids at Indoor Stadium for the Pfizer COVID-19 jab. The Ministry of Education is looking to vaccinate 38,000 secondary school students in the next two weeks. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Azrin Yahaya, who accompanied his 12-year-old son Md Sabil for his appointment at the Indoor Stadium, said he he had few doubts about getting his son vaccinated.

I have been fully vaccinated and also received a booster shot, he said, adding that his son was keen to get the jab after seeing his whole family get it. 

“I’m confident and trusting too. The government is giving one the best [vaccines] for them … so I wasn’t doubtful or unsure about it.

It will make it easier for us to move here and there. So it’s better for us to be vaccinated,” Azrin said.

Another parent, Hjh Junainah Junaidi, said the vaccination process at the Indoor Stadium was smooth and organised.

“The process this morning was fast, from queuing up to entering because everyone already had been given a form to print out at home.

“To get inside for the queue number was less than five minutes, then we just wait for the injection which took around 15 minutes,” she said.

As a teacher herself, Hjh Junainah said she tried to stress the importance of getting vaccinated to her students.

“And for us teachers we need to think about this too, if they don’t get vaccinated how will they go back to school next year? Because it’s needed, right?”

“Some parents may have doubts, but for us as parents, we feel that it’s necessary because it’s for their own good, it’s for their body’s immunity”.