KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — Residents in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur aged 18 and above will soon be able to book vaccination slots to get AstraZeneca-Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine on a first-come, first-served basis.
Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said this initiative — which will begin in the Klang Valley — was mainly introduced to increase vaccine confidence among the public, as well as to vaccinate a larger population without interrupting the National Covid-19 immunisation Programme (PICK).
Khairy acknowledged public concerns over rare but serious blood clots reported in recipients of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in some countries, even as he insisted that the vaccine is safe and effective. European regulators have also maintained that the benefits of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in preventing Covid-19 outweigh the risks of side effects.
Khairy pointed out that the risk of blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine is merely 0.0004 per cent, while the birth control pill has a higher 0.05 per cent to 0.12 per cent risk of blood clots. Smoking and Covid-19 infection carry a 0.18 per cent and 16.5 per cent chance respectively of getting blood clots.
“We don’t want to waste this effective vaccine. At the same time, we understand that facts and science are not able to overcome the worries of the public and widespread fake news,” Khairy told a press conference today.
“So we would like to announce that AstraZeneca vaccine will not be used in the mainstream Covid-19 immunisation programme. We will open up special vaccination centres (PPV) and we will open that to the public who are willing to take the vaccine voluntarily. They can register for the AstraZeneca vaccine in that special PPV,” he added, without specifying the date for when these special PPVs will be opened up.
Khairy clarified later that AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine has not been dropped from PICK, but that the government was creating a separate opt-in voluntary stream for the shot under the national vaccination programme.
He stated that 268,600 AstraZeneca vaccine doses that have already arrived in Malaysia from the global COVAX facility will be used for this initiative in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, while additional supply of the vaccine — which will be used for the second dose 12 weeks after the first — will arrive in May.
“The booking system will be opened to the public to place their order on a first-come, first-served basis and we are not restricting the vaccine to the target groups in Phase Two of the vaccination programme.
“We open to anyone who wants the AstraZeneca vaccine in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur,” Khairy said, adding that this new booking system will enable people to book their appointment date and time for their AstraZeneca jab, so as to manage vaccine logistics.
The science, technology and innovation minister also emphasised that those who received their Covid-19 vaccination appointments through the MySejahtera application will not take the AstraZeneca vaccine, as only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines will be used for them.
Khairy also said that a team of experts has studied the implications of the AstraZeneca vaccine thoroughly in Malaysia before the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) introduced this measure.
He stated that the AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved in Malaysia based on three main criteria — the ability of the vaccine to reduce Covid-19 hospitalisation, admission in the intensive care unit, and Covid-19 deaths.
Health Minister Dr Adham Baba, at the press conference with Khairy, said people coming to get their AstraZeneca jabs will get medical consultations at the special PPV before inoculation to determine if they are suitable for vaccination.
Khairy said those who receive the AstraZeneca vaccine should seek immediate medical consultation if they develop symptoms days or weeks after vaccination, such as severe headache, unusual blurry vision, weakness, drowsiness, unusual bleeding, and shortness of breath, even as he maintained that serious side effects are “exceedingly rare”.
Although the government stated previously that it would use AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for people aged 60 and above first, Khairy said the government would now follow the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency’s (NPRA) registration of the vaccine for those aged 18 and above for the new AstraZeneca vaccination booking system.
He pointed out that only Norway, Denmark, and Hong Kong have suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, while other European and other nations have either continued to use the shot or restarted rollouts after an initial halt.
Khairy added that he has also offered the AstraZeneca vaccine to Sarawak, noting that the state aims to complete mass vaccinations by August before state elections.