AstraZeneca incidents are rare, says DG

Close watch: Dr Noor Hisham and Tuaran Hospital director Dr G. Mohan Gopal Naidoo (left) looking on as a nurse gets a vaccine jab during a visit to a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Tuaran. — Bernama

KOTA KINABALU: The Health Ministry will continue with plans to use the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine as the benefits outweigh the reported adverse effects, says director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He was responding to Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s announcement that the Special Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Committee would decide on the use of the vaccine tomorrow following reports of blood clots.

“It will continue (as) there is no reason why we should stop it, ” he told reporters after visiting the Tuaran district hospital about 40km from here yesterday.

Dr Noor Hisham said following such reports, the usage of AstraZeneca was put on hold by some countries to look into the link between blood clots and the side effects of the vaccines.

“Looking into the incidents, these are very rare. The benefits outweigh the risks. Nonetheless, we must be very careful about the usage of AstraZeneca, ” he added.

He said so far, Malaysia had registered for emergency use the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer, including those manufactured in Belgium and Germany, and that of AstraZeneca from two countries.

Sinovac had also been given conditional approval.

“With all three vaccines, we hope to continue increasing the number of registrations.

“Pharmaniaga is in the ‘fill and finish’ process for the Sinovac vaccine, ” he said, adding that it had yet to submit its application for approval from the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA). This is expected to be done in a month.

“We need to look at the stability of ‘fill and finish’ in our country and then we can use Sinovac, ” he said, adding that the NPRA was also waiting for the submission of other vaccines like CanSino, among others.

Universiti Malaya professor of epidemiology and public health Prof Dr Sanjay Rampal said the evidence base for vaccines was relatively new and still building up.

“It is good to periodically conduct evaluations of the efficacy and safety of the vaccines. With new evidence from high-quality research, the benefit-to-harm ratio may change.“Based on our approach to the pandemic, the benefit currently outweighs the harm for vaccines that have been registered and with high data transparency, ” he added.

“When assessing news of rare severe adverse reactions, it is important to translate the number of events into rates, for example, events per thousand or million doses, ” said Dr Sanjay, adding that this could then be compared to rates from hazards of other events.

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