Malaysia Won’t Delay Second Pfizer Vaccine Dose

Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says a delay in getting the second dose may delay an optimum production of antibodies.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has maintained its recommended three-week dosing interval of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine, instead of delaying the second dose so that more people can be inoculated with at least one dose. 

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the long-term effects from getting just one dose of the Pfizer vaccine are still unknown, as participants in clinical trials received two doses between 19 and 42 days. 

He cited Phase 3 clinical trials that found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 94.6 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 based on two doses administered between 21 days (dosing interval allowed until 42 days). Effectiveness reached 89 per cent between the 14th and 21st day after the first dose.

“It’s also important to note that a significant increase of antibodies that may provide long-term protection only occurs after the second dose. A delay in getting the second dose may delay an optimum production of antibodies,” Dr Noor Hisham said in a statement today.

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, in a press conference yesterday, suggested to the government to vaccinate more individuals with one dose of the vaccine, rather than reserving the second dose. 

Only the United Kingdom adopts the strategy of delaying the second dose, where individuals only get their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine 12 weeks after their first dose. This is to ensure that more people can get at least the first dose rather than a smaller number of people getting both doses.

As of yesterday, 346,508 people in Malaysia have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, comprising about 69 per cent of a targeted 500,000 frontline workers in the first phase of the national inoculation drive.

Labuan, which has the second smallest population in the country after Putrajaya, is the first territory to vaccinate all its frontline workers, numbering at 2,342, with at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

CodeBlue reported Labuan health director Dr Ismuni Bohari as saying that Labuan completed the first dose of vaccination for frontliners on March 12, ahead of schedule, while the second dose will start to be administered from March 20.

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