KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 — Malaysia will be rolling out AstraZeneca-Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine for people aged 60 years and above first, before recommending the shot for younger people.
Dr Kalai Peariasamy, director of the Institute for Clinical Research, noted that the United Kingdom has administered the AstraZeneca vaccine to elderly people with underlying health conditions.
He pointed out that more than five million people in Scotland and the majority in England who received AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine were aged above 65 and aged 70 years respectively.
“We can use it for senior citizens aged 60 years and above, where the risk of very rare blood clots is extremely low,” Dr Kalai told a joint press conference today with Health Minister Dr Adham Baba.
Dr Adham confirmed: “We will use it for those aged 60 years and above.”
Dr Kalai said a panel of 22 experts, including infectious disease experts, paediatricians, and geriatricians, had given data on AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to the Special Committee on Ensuring Access To Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV).
JKJAV then considered three factors before approving the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine in Malaysia: whether the vaccine reduced hospitalisation, admission to the intensive care unit (ICU), and death from Covid-19 or from very rare blood clots.
Dr Kalai cited British and European medical regulators that concluded earlier this month that the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe for adults across all age groups, although the European Medicines Agency (EMA) did find a possible link from the vaccine to very rare blood clots.
The European Union’s drug regulator said last April 7 that most of the reported cases of unusual blood clots following inoculation with AstraZeneca’s vaccine occurred in women aged below 60, based on a review of 86 cases of serious blood clots in the brain (called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis) and abdomen (splanchnic vein thrombosis). Eighteen of those cases died.
EMA maintained that the benefits of the vaccine in preventing Covid-19 outweighed the risk of side effects.
“The committee (JKJAV) recommends that the AstraZeneca vaccine be used for this group first,” Dr Kalai said today, referring to people aged 60 and above.
“At the same time, we will look at data from other countries that use the AstraZeneca vaccine for 18-year-olds and above, 30-year-olds and above, 40-year-olds and above, and 55-year-olds and above. The recommendations may be updated once we get the data.”
He added that AstraZeneca’s vaccine efficacy rate was 76 per cent, based on data from the United States.
Malaysia received its first batch of 268,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine last Friday from the global COVAX Facility manufactured in South Korea.