KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — Malaysia has opted for the cheaper PCV10 pneumococcal vaccine in the first two years of implementation that protects against fewer bacterial strains compared to the PCV13 vaccine.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said immunisation for children with the pneumococcal vaccine under the National Immunisation Programme (NIP) at public health facilities would begin December 1, open to infants born from January 1 this year.
The pneumococcal vaccine will be given in three doses: two primer doses at age four months and six months, followed by a booster shot at age 15 months.
Babies born on or after January 1, who are aged five months or above, will be vaccinated according to an immunisation schedule adjusted by age at Ministry of Health (MOH) facilities.
“The pneumococcal vaccine that will be used in the National Immunisation Programme for the first two years of implementation is the PCV-10 (Synflorix) that protects against 10 serotypes of the pneumococcus bacteria, covering serotypes 1, 4, 5, 6B, 7F, 9V, 14, 18C, 19F and 23F,” Dr Noor Hisham said in a statement today, referring to GSK’s pneumococcal vaccine.
“This vaccine also gives cross-reactivity protection against serotype 19A.”
Cross-reactivity refers to an observed immune response against pathogen types not specifically targeted by the vaccine.
Paediatricians have previously urged the government to list in the NIP the more expensive PCV13 vaccine that covers the same pneumococcal strains as PCV10, plus an additional three serotypes, 19A, 6A, and 3, due to PCV13’s broader coverage and overall higher cost-saving potential.
Serotypes 6A and 19A, which shows antibiotic resistance, were among the most common pneumococcal serotypes in Malaysia among children aged below five from 2014 to 2017.
Dr Noor Hisham announced today that the pneumococcal vaccine was safe and effective, noting that it has been used in private health facilities in Malaysia since 2009 without any reports of serious safety issues.
“Parents with children born on or after January 1, 2020, who have already taken one or two doses of the pneumococcal vaccine at private health facilities can choose to complete the pneumococcal immunisation schedule at private or MOH health facilities.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that pneumococcal disease kills about one million children globally every year. According to the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pneumococcus is the most common cause of pneumonia, bloodstream infections, meningitis, and middle ear infections in young children.