Quality of protection takes priority, says Khairy

PETALING JAYA: The dosing interval between the first and second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine can be stretched from three weeks to six weeks but this move will depend on the prevalence of variants of concern (VOC) found in a locality, says Khairy Jamaluddin.

The National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme coordinating minister said the strategy of stretching the vaccine dosage internal from three weeks to six weeks will allow them to administer the vaccine to more people.

However, Khairy said this will have to be balanced against the VOCs such as the Indian variant which will impact the efficacy of the vaccine.

Khairy noted that data from Pfizer-BioNTech have so far shown that one dose will only provide a protection of 33% against the Indian variant while two doses will provide a protection of 88%.

“Even though this strategy is good in terms of providing more coverage to people, the quality of the protection on the Indian variant is much lower.

“We will look at the prevalence of the variant of concern at a locality.

“If the prevalence of the variant of concern is low at a locality, then we will make a decision to stretch the interval of administering both doses.

“In areas where the prevalence of the variant of concern is high we will decide to only allow a three-week interval between both doses to give the best protection against the variant.

“This is in line with the decision made by other countries that are also looking into the variant of concern issue where only one dose does not provide an effective protection against the variant, ” he said during a press conference broadcast on Zoom yesterday.

Khairy also noted that, at present, this will only apply to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and not the Sinovac or AstraZeneca vaccine.

“For Sinovac, the advisory is to maintain the present dosing intervals because there is no data yet on whether increasing the dosing intervals will affect its efficacy. We will maintain it at three weeks.

“For AstraZeneca we are monitoring the situation.

“If the prevalence of the variants continue to grow we might shorten the dosing interval.

“For now, we are maintaining it at 12 weeks, ” he said.

During the press conference, he also noted that currently there was hardly any vaccine wastage despite reports that there were people in Kelantan and Kedah who did not show up for their vaccinations.

Khairy clarified that vaccination centres have a waiting list at hand if people did not show up.

“Should the waiting list is also exhausted but with vaccines still available, they simply do not take the vaccines out of the top-loading freezer which is at the vaccination centre.

“If they keep the vaccines in the top-loading freezer, they can still make use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for another four days, ” he said.

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