PUTRAJAYA: The opt-in programme for the AstraZeneca (AZ) Covid-19 vaccine will be extended to more people in Malaysia as the government expects at least 1.1 million more doses to arrive this month.
Khairy Jamaluddin, the coordinating minister of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, said the government would look to reach out to those who lack access to the Internet, as well as beyond states beyond Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
"We are looking to expand the AZ programme as we have more vaccines coming from the Covax facility and AZ itself.
"We will continue to maintain it as an opt-in voluntary programme under the national immunisation programme.
"But for the first programme that we launched yesterday (May 2), we restricted it to Kuala Lumpur and Selangor and wanted to do it online.
"I do understand it presents challenges to people without access to the Internet.
"So going forward... we will take into account these people and reach out to our community clinics so we can offer this vaccine to more people," said Khairy at his weekly joint press conference with Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba on Monday (May 3).
Khairy said Malaysia is expecting 1.1 million doses of AZ vaccines to arrive this month from the Covax facility.
Another 600,000 doses are expected in June, followed by about 400,000 in July, coming directly from AZ
In August and September, another batch of 1.2 million AZ vaccines will arrive, Khairy added.
"Once we have a steady supply of AZ vaccines, we will make sure vaccine equity is addressed and that these vaccines will be available to all, including those without MySejahtera or access to our website," said Khairy.
He was responding to concerns brought up on vaccine inequity during the roll out of 260,000 AZ vaccination slots to Kuala Lumpur and Selangor residents on Sunday.
The Science, Technology and Innovation Minister said the government was concerned about vaccine hesitancy, which was shown when about 8,000 people cancelled their vaccination registrations on MySejahtera.
"This was as soon as the government announced that the AZ was going to be part of the national immunisation programme.
"This resulted in our decision to carve out AZ from the mainstream programme and have an opt-in programme.
"As soon as we announced the carve-out, about 80% of those who cancelled on MySejahtera re-registered for their appointments. So this is the data that we have showing how there was vaccination hesitancy," said Khairy.
On Sunday, online bookings for appointments to receive about 268,000 AZ vaccines were snapped up in about three hours.
Those who successfully registered have started receiving appointments for AZ vaccines on Monday morning via the MySejahtera app, with the earliest appointment scheduled for Wednesday (May 5).