Govt to expand AstraZeneca voluntary opt-in programme

Gearing up: The Ideal Convention Centre in Shah Alam, Selangor, being prepared for the AstraZeneca vaccination programme. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

PUTRAJAYA: The government will be looking to reach out to those who lack access to the Internet as it moves forward with expanding the AstraZeneca (AZ) voluntary opt-in programme to beyond Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, says Khairy Jamaluddin.

The coordinating minister of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme said the programme would be expanded to more people in Malaysia as the government expects at least 1.1 million more doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to arrive this month.

“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, we restricted it to Kuala Lumpur and Selangor and wanted to do it online, ” he said.

“I do understand it represents challenges to people without access to the Internet or our websites.

“So going forward, in designing the rollout of this AZ opt-in programme, we will take into account these people. And we will reach out to our community clinics, so we can offer this vaccine to more people, ” Khairy said at his weekly joint press conference with Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba.

Malaysia is expecting to receive more than one million doses of the AZ vaccine this month from the Covax facility. After that, another 600,000 are expected to arrive in June, followed by about 400,000 in July – coming directly from AZ.

“In August and September, another batch of 1.2 million AZ vaccine doses will arrive. Once we have a steady supply of the AZ vaccine, we will make sure vaccine equity is addressed and that these vaccines will be available to all, including those without MySejahtera and those who could not access our website, ” said Khairy.

He was responding to concerns brought up on vaccine inequity during the rollout 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 is vaccination hesitancy, ” said Khairy.

On Sunday, about 268,000 AZ vaccine slots which were made available online were filled up in about three hours. Volunteers started receiving their appointments for the AZ vaccine yesterday morning, with the earliest appointment scheduled for tomorrow.

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