KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 — The government has signed contracts with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers to allow Malaysians to get upgraded vaccines based on new coronavirus variants, Khairy Jamaluddin said today.
“When I negotiated, I ensured that if there was an upgrade, based on new variants, then our existing contract would cover vaccines that are upgraded,” the science, technology and innovation minister told a press conference on the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) this afternoon.
“We’ve secured contracts which will enable us to get upgraded vaccines in light of variants and mutations.”
The Pfizer vaccine has been found to be effective against the United Kingdom’s “Kent” and South African variants, but no data has been reported on the effectiveness against the Brazil variant. Meanwhile, the AstraZeneca vaccine works well against the Kent variant, but less effective against the South African variant, while no data has been reported on its effectiveness against the Brazil variant.
However, Khairy said the government has yet to discuss if the vaccine will be continuously given for free if a booster dose is needed every year. The UK has said that booster doses and annual vaccinations may be needed for Covid-19, like with flu vaccination, as new variants of the coronavirus emerge.
“We’ve not had that discussion yet. We are monitoring very closely around the world, especially in countries where they have accelerated vaccination.
“Later this year, whether or not the vaccines will have to be readministered, whether the virus looks to be endemic as it continues to stay in the community, at that point, we will discuss the longer term,” Khairy added.
Khairy also said that whether or not pregnant women should be vaccinated with the Covid-19 vaccine is still being considered. In the guidebook by the Covid-19 Supply Access Committee (JKJAV) launched yesterday, it was stated that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are contraindicated in taking the vaccine.
“Contraindications are the list of people we will advise against taking vaccines. We are still updating based on the data that we continue to get from other parts of the world,” Khairy said.
“When we are certain for instance, pregnant women, KKM (Ministry of Health) will announce that whether or not pregnant women will be able to take the vaccines. For now, it is still under consideration and we will make an announcement soon.”
American infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci recently said that many pregnant women in the United States have received the Covid-19 vaccine and so far, there have not been any red flags among them.
During the press conference, Khairy also said that the government is coming up with an implementation plan on how to reach undocumented foreign workers, either through foreign embassies, international organisations, or civil societies to bring them out.
“That’s the most important and [to] be confident that the government will vaccinate them and not detain them,” Khairy said.
Meanwhile, for documented foreign workers, the Covid-19 vaccine will be given on a voluntary basis.
“Foriegn workers who are documented, we will be working with the employers to ensure that the employers can furnish us with their details so that we can make appointments for these documented migrant workers to receive their vaccinations efficiently.”
Recently, the government announced that they will be giving free Covid-19 vaccines to all Malaysians and foreigners, both documented and undocumented.