The health ministry is looking into whether the time interval for the second AstraZeneca vaccine dose can be shortened from 12 weeks to six, Health Minister Dr Adham Baba says.
He said this will depend on expert reports on the Covid-19 situation in the country, whether the vaccine recipients require maximum protection from the second dose more quickly.
“We still have to conduct continuous genome sequencing activity to detect if there is a new, more violent Covid-19 variant that could affect the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“The decision will be made by the JKJAV (Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Special Committee) if the second dose must be given sooner,” he said in a news conference at his office today.
Currently, the interval between doses for the AstraZeneca vaccine is 12 weeks or three months.
Adham said the government would study reports from the country’s health experts and health authorities in Australia where AstraZeneca is no longer administered to those under the age of 60 due to concerns over blood clots.
He said this was especially on the supply of AstraZeneca vaccine produced by suppliers from Thailand which will arrive in July.
“Our experts will re-evaluate whether the AstraZeneca vaccine is suitable for those aged 60 and below,” he said.
Malaysia procured the Covid-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca through the Covax facility and directly from the manufacturer.
Adham said so far, the overall data shows that the AstraZeneca vaccine has not caused serious harm to recipients in Malaysia.
He also said the government does not plan to implement the first-dose strategy as the supply of vaccine ordered is enough.
Through the first-dose strategy, a first dose of vaccine is given to more people by extending the interval between it and the second dose. This strategy has been implemented in countries such as the UK and Germany.
However, Adham said the government was implementing the “vaccinate first, register later” method for those facing difficulty in registering for vaccination, especially in rural areas.
A mobile team will be sent to track down target groups that were supposed to be vaccinated in the second phase of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.
“We are targeting to inoculate 9.4 million people in the second phase but so far, only 4.4 million have registered via the MySejahtera application. So we are going all out to deploy the team to cover all recipients, before we can proceed with the third phase,” he said.
The second phase of the immunisation programme focuses on senior citizens, persons with disabilities and those with chronic illnesses.