Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin today said that 8,000 people had cancelled their vaccination registrations under MySejahtera following the government’s initial announcement that the AstraZeneca vaccine would be included in the national immunisation programme.
“The whole reason for having the opt-in for the AstraZeneca vaccine was due to the vaccine hesitancy towards this particular brand of vaccine for Covid-19,” he said at a joint press conference with Health Minister Dr Adham Baba today.
Given the rising number of cancellations, he said, the Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply had decided to drop the AstraZeneca jab from the mainstream immunisation programme and to offer the vaccine on a voluntary basis instead.
“After we announced the carve-out and the opt-in programme for AstraZeneca, about 80% of people who cancelled their registrations on MySejahtera re-registered for their vaccination appointments.
“This is data that we have showing how there was vaccine hesistancy,” he said.
News that the AstraZeneca vaccine would be included in the government’s immunisation programme sparked public concern following reports of blood clots in a small number of recipients in other countries, some of whom had died after receiving the jab.
Khairy later said the AstraZeneca vaccine would be administered on a voluntary basis at specific vaccination centres instead of being used as part of the mainstream programme.
“We do not want to waste this vaccine which is both safe and effective,” he said. “But we understand that science and facts cannot overcome public fear and the fake news that has been circulating about this vaccine.”
The first 268,600 doses of the vaccine, which were allocated for residents in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, were fully booked within several hours of registration opening at noon yesterday.
Speaking today, Khairy said the move to drop AstraZeneca from the national immunisation programme was “principally because of the issue of vaccine hesitancy”.
“Yes, maybe 7,000, 8,000 people are not a significant amount out of nine million people that registered, but we noticed that even people showing up for their appointments started to drop off after the announcement for the AstraZeneca vaccine to be included in the national immunisation programme,” he said.
Khairy, who is in charge of the vaccination programme, said he was pleased that over 260,000 appointments had been taken up within the span of three hours yesterday.
“We are looking to expand this programme because we have more AstraZeneca vaccines arriving, most from the Covax facility, as well as from AstraZeneca itself,” he said.
“We will continue to maintain it as an opt-in, voluntary programme under the national immunisation programme.”
Going forward in designing the further rollout of the opt-in programme for AstraZeneca, he said, authorities would take into account those who have no internet access or who are unable to access the website.
“We will reach out to our community clinics to ensure that we can offer this on a voluntary basis to people who may not have access,” he said.
“This is just the first batch of AstraZeneca,” he added. “We just wanted to try to see whether or not there would be demand, and we wanted to do it as quickly as possible.”