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Finish giving 2 jabs before thinking about a third, says health expert

A virologist says there is no need to think about administering booster shots of Covid-19 vaccine just yet.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
2 minute read
Orang Asli villagers wait for their turn to receive a Covid-19 jab at a mobile vaccination unit in Sungai Gabai, Hulu Langat in Selangor.
Orang Asli villagers wait for their turn to receive a Covid-19 jab at a mobile vaccination unit in Sungai Gabai, Hulu Langat in Selangor.

A health expert has played down any need for Malaysia to begin rolling out booster shots of Covid-19 vaccine, saying a large part of the adult population have yet to receive even a first dose, or are only partially vaccinated against the virus.

Virologist Dr Yahya Mat Arip said only some 48% of the population in Malaysia had been fully vaccinated as of Sept 3.

“This means there are still many who have yet to be jabbed – more than 50% of the population or 34% of adults,” he told MalaysiaNow.

“In this type of situation, administering a third dose will not help in the fight against Delta as the percentage of unvaccinated people is still high,” he said, referring to the ultra contagious variant which has fuelled a surge in infections across the globe.

Neighbouring Singapore announced on Friday that it would begin giving vaccine booster shots to the elderly and those with weak immune systems, as the city-state battles an increase in caseload despite its high vaccination rate.

Infection numbers in Singapore have been on the rise with more than 100 cases a day reported and regular deaths.

The island republic had posted some 68,000 infections and 55 deaths as of Friday. More than 80% of its population are fully vaccinated.

Yahya said the focus in Malaysia should be on ensuring that as many as possible complete both doses of vaccine.

“Those who are only partially vaccinated are up to three times more at risk of experiencing severe symptoms if they are infected with the Delta strain,” he said.

“In contrast, those who are fully vaccinated are likely to experience only mild symptoms or none at all.”

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah also recently said that booster shots would not help efforts to curb the spread of Delta.

To the north, Thailand too has begun rolling out booster shots for some three million individuals, the majority of whom are frontline workers.

In Western nations, Yahya said, booster jabs are given only to the elderly, cancer patients, those who have undergone surgery for organ transplants, and those whose immune systems are compromised.

“For now, the vaccines are still effective and enough to protect against Covid-19,” he said.

“We still have time to assess the need for a third dose.”

Malaysia is aiming to reach herd immunity by fully vaccinating 80% of the population.

Putrajaya has said that this can be done by October, based on the country’s daily vaccination rates which have gained international praise.