PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia will proceed with using the vaccine from AstraZeneca for its Covid-19 immunisation programme after health authorities are convinced of its safety, says Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba.
The Health Minister said after a thorough study of clinical data and assessment involving health experts, the ministry decided that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine is safe to be used for all and it is effective. We will begin using the vaccine on those aged 60 years and above, ” he told a press conference yesterday.
Dr Adham said with the addition of AstraZeneca, the country’s supply issues would be resolved.
“We now have Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac. The NPRA has given conditional approval to Sinovac, which is filled and finished in the country, ” he said, referring to the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency.
“We will be getting about two million doses every month, so our vaccine supplies are now adequate, ” he said.
On Friday, Malaysia received its first batch of 268,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the global Covax facility in South Korea.
At an engagement session with the media later, Institute of Clinical Research director Dr Kalaiarasu Periasamy said incidents of blood clot among those who received AstraZeneca jabs were “rare and small amount”.
“There have been 168 reported cases of blood clotting globally. To date, more than 20 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“So the cases amount to a rate of 7.9 out of one million. So blood clots are very rare incidents.
“The vaccine is very likely to reduce hospitalisation, reduce admission to ICU treatment and also prevent deaths.
“Our panel of experts in the Health Ministry feels that the benefits of the vaccine far outweighs the risks, ” said Dr Kalaiarasu.
He said data from the United States showed that the efficacy rate of AstraZeneca was at 76%, which is within the acceptable rate.
He added that other studies had also shown that the vaccine was suitable to be administered on those aged 60 and above.
Recently, Malaysia started the second phase of its Covid-19 vaccination programme, which would involve those aged 60 and above, people with comorbidities as well as the disabled.
The third phase, scheduled for May, will involve the general public aged 18 and above.
“The panel of health experts will also be observing data from other countries on those aged 18 and above, who have been administered with AstraZeneca.
“The recommendations will be updated once we receive more data, ” said Dr Kalaiarasu.
Deputy Health director-general (research and technical support) Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim said they would closely monitor the progress of those who had received the jabs for potential side effects.
“We will monitor all patients and they will be informed to be on the lookout for certain symptoms after receiving the jabs. If they experience side effects, immediate medical aid will be given to them, ” he said.
In Alor Star, Bernama reported that the CanSino Covid-19 vaccine has yet to receive approval from the NPRA to be brought in and used in the country.
Coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin said NPRA was in the midst of studying the vaccine from China before it could be approved.
“Until we get the approval, we cannot bring in the vaccine.
“The Sarawak government had asked for the vaccine. I told Sarawak that we will only be able to give them the CanSino vaccine after we get the approval, ” he told reporters after visiting a vaccine dispensing centre at the Sultan Abdul Halim Stadium.
“CanSino is a single-shot vaccine and is suitable for those living in rural areas.”
The Science, Technology and Innovation Minister also said the number of those who had registered was increasing and had reached almost 40%.
Through intensified efforts, he said the number could reach 50% in the next one to two months.
“Our target is to reach more than 80%. But I think many are taking a wait-and-see approach, ” he said.