When Covid-19 Infects a Family...

By Sherra Yeong

Published on 2021-06-28 Updated 2021-07-06

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"WE WERE ONE of the lucky ones," recalls Nadine* of her family's harrowing brush with Covid-19. A case had been detected at the nursery of a centre where her seven-year-old son Dan goes for his after-school programme.

Chances that he would be infected were small, Nadine thought; after all, the nursery building was some distance away from where he took his lessons. But just to be sure, Nadine arranged for Dan to do a swab test. The result came back the next day, showing that Dan was infected, although he showed none of the listed symptoms, save for a scratch in his throat.

Nadine remembers the panic she felt. She made a string of urgent phone calls immediately. First, to Dan's school principal, then to her family, friends and those who had been in close contact with her immediate family. Her employer and colleagues too were alerted.

The family was later contacted by the Ministry of Health [Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia (KKM)] and instructed to wear pink wristbands. To track the family's movements, KKM also required for Nadine to send screenshots of her MySejahtera check-ins from the past 10 days. "I was so sure both my husband and I had Covid-19 too," says Nadine. But much to their immense relief, the results came back negative on them.

She worried for her parents and in-laws, both of whom the family had visited recently. "My parents are elderly and have restricted mobility, but KKM was kind enough to arrange for a swab test to be done at their home." Nadine grew distraught when her 81-year-old, cancer-stricken father was confirmed positive for the virus; he had previously stopped his chemotherapy treatment.

Plans were soon made for both grandfather and grandson to be moved to quarantine centres, "but because both only had mild symptoms – my father thankfully only lost his sense of taste – they were allowed to undergo quarantine at home, as long as the family took precautionary measures.

"My father is physically weak and relies heavily on my mother, especially when he needs to visit the washroom. I was concerned there would not be a dedicated nurse at the centre to care for him; and Dan needed me."

It was an incredibly stressful time for Nadine and her husband, made all the more gut-wrenching when they were forced to have zero physical contact with their only child.

KKM also instructed the pair to mask and glove up at all times, to keep a separate bedroom and bathroom for Dan and to have all areas of their home sanitised several times daily. "It was important for me to make sure Dan knew what was going on; these sudden changes, even if temporary, can be very confusing for a young child. I don't believe in treating Covid-19 patients as people we should give a wide berth to. The experience is physically alienating enough; they should not feel emotionally isolated as well."

After a 10-day quarantine period, Dan was reassessed at a drive-thru Covid-19 screening. No further symptoms showed up, and the family's pink ribbons were cut off. Happily, Nadine's father also made a full recovery. "I'm immensely grateful for how we were able to overcome this traumatic experience."

Vaccination for Children

As recently as June 15, it was announced that children aged 12 and above have been approved for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency.1

Malaysia currently aims to vaccinate at least 23.6 million people aged 18 and above under its Covid-19 Immunisation Programme – the number may well increase to about 26.25 million, with the addition of the 12-17-year-old age group. In theory at least, this would enable Malaysia to reach 80% vaccine coverage, referred to by experts as the minimum estimate for a country to reach herd immunity.2

ASEAN countries like Singapore and The Philippines have already approved the Pfizer vaccine for children of a similar age bracket; and in Europe, the US and Canada, children as young as 12 are receiving the same vaccine dose as adults, at 30 micrograms.3

* Names of the interviewees have been changed to protect their privacy.

Sherra Yeong

is an aspiring author with a Bachelor’s degree in Food Science and a passion for good food and wine. She writes at sherrayeong.com.