The Covid-19 vaccines used in Malaysia have been proven to be effective against the Delta variant, says health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
He said this was based on the fact that vaccinations in Labuan and Sarawak had managed to reduce hospital admissions, ICU bed usage, and use of ventilators for Covid-19 patients.
Noor Hisham also expressed confidence that cases in the Klang Valley would drop once 50% of the population are vaccinated, a number authorities have aimed to achieve by Aug 31.
“We are already seeing some positive results, whereby in the Klang Valley when we started vaccination for elderly, the age group of 60 and above, patients in Sungai Buloh Hospital decreased and now we are seeing age groups of 40 to 59 and 20 to 39 also decreasing in the last one week,” he said during a question-and-answer session after delivering his keynote address and attending a dialogue at the Malaysia Healthcare Conference 2021 held virtually today.
He said of the 67 whole genome sequencing done to identify variants of concern (VOC) in the country from July 17 until August, 66 were confirmed as being of the Delta variant.
He said the Delta variant had a higher infectivity rate or R-naught value and was thus much more transmissible compared to the Wuhan virus which sparked the pandemic last year.
“The R-naught for the Wuhan virus started from 2.5, which means one person can infect 2.5 people but now this virus (Delta) is reported at five to eight, which means if 100 people get infected, they infect 500 to 800 people in one cycle. This is similar to chickenpox (11 to 12) and measles (18),” he added.
He said more variants are expected to emerge, adding that mutations happen when there are infections that cause the virus to enter and multiply in the lungs.
“Maybe in another three or four more cycles we can see spike protein mutations that are resistant to our vaccine, and we may not be able to detect them from our testing. The fear is there, but we need to look into solutions, how best to contain this infection in our country,” he added.
On the use of ivermectin, Noor Hisham said the results of clinical trials on the use and efficacy of the drug will be available by next month.
He said the vitro study (experiment done in the laboratory) was showing some results, but that the vivo study (experiment on living organism) showed that a high dosage of ivermectin is needed to achieve anti-viral effects, which could give rise to some other complications.
He said the health ministry would conduct a study on three types of drugs to treat Covid-19 patients as announced by the World Health Organisation, namely artesunate, imatinib and infliximab.
He said solidarity tests on drugs used in the past such as remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir showed that they were not effective against Covid-19.