AstraZeneca Vaccination Opens May 23, Only For Above-60s

Only 475,984 people under Phase Two of PICK have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, or 5% of the targeted 9.4 million high-risk individuals.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 — The next round of the opt-in stream for AstraZeneca-Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine will open on May 23, Khairy Jamaluddin announced today.

However, the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine will only be available for people aged 60 and above in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Sarawak, and Johor that are reporting the highest number of coronavirus infections in the country.

“Bookings via website and community clinic outreach. AZ will also be sent to elderly care homes,” Khairy tweeted.

“However, those on the present round one waitlist will get appointments.”

The science, technology and innovation minister added that if there are excess vaccination slots after the voluntary AstraZeneca vaccine registration for people aged 60 and above from May 23 to 26, the vaccine will be opened to the general public after May 26.

Malaysian Residential Aged Care Operators secretary-general Fong Muntoh complained in a video posted on Twitter that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has not responded to the association’s offer to help inoculate senior citizens and staff in aged care homes. There are an estimated nearly 6,000 elderly residents in the association’s nursing homes nationwide.

Khairy said that the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) has identified aged care homes for Covid-19 vaccination, whose residents and staff will receive their jabs in a mobile inoculation programme. 

“Vaccinations are done in-situ, we go there and vaccinate there in the homes,” Khairy said in a virtual press conference with Health Minister Dr Adham Baba today. “I’m meeting with the associations tomorrow.”

Dr Adham said that as of March this year, records show there are 12 government aged care homes, as well as 365 registered and 101 unregistered private care homes nationwide. 

He added that a survey showed almost all of the 17,535 residents in care homes have agreed to get vaccinated against Covid-19. 

Khairy said that the next round of AstraZeneca vaccinations will use 1.1 million doses from the global COVAX vaccine-sharing programme. However, he did not elaborate on the delivery schedule for the 1.1 million doses, or if Malaysia has already received them. 

The wait list from the initial round of AstraZeneca’s opt-in vaccination programme in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur comprises around 25,000 people, said Khairy. 

The mainstream National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) that supplies the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines currently targets 9.4 million people aged above 60, those with underlying health conditions, and people with disabilities in Phase Two that started on April 19.

According to the science, technology and innovation minister, 475,984 target individuals under Phase Two have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine — either the Pfizer or Sinovac vaccine under PICK — including 282,000 fully vaccinated individuals.

This translates to only 5 per cent of the targeted 9.4 million high-risk individuals who have received at least one dose, including 3 per cent who are fully vaccinated with their second dose.

Khairy told the press conference that Covid-19 vaccines are being given to Phase Two recipients according to their age groups, with priority for the oldest. 

“Some states, it takes time to come down the age grouping, like Selangor and KL, 80s and late 70s. If you’re in your late 60s and you haven’t received your appointment yet, we’re progressively going down the list. People with comorbidities and disabled are next after senior citizens,” he said.

“As soon as we get through registered Phase Two recipients, then we’ll start Phase Three. We can’t wait to vaccinate everyone under Phase Two who has not registered yet. We’ll continue with outreach, but once we’re done with Phase Two recipients, we’ll definitely start Phase Three,” Khairy added, when asked if Phase Three of PICK for the general public would be postponed until most high-risk individuals are vaccinated.

Malaysia’s Covid-19 epidemic now is turning up far more severe cases than previous waves, filling up intensive care units (ICUs) in hospitals across multiple states.

As of yesterday, only 702,702 vaccination appointments have been given to target Phase Two recipients, Khairy said, without revealing how many people from Phase Two have already registered for the Covid-19 vaccine.

The vaccine minister also said that the Sarawak state government has now agreed to administer AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine on a voluntary basis, after initially rejecting the shot.

“We’ll discuss with the Sarawak state health department on how best to administer it in Sarawak.”

Malaysia will generally use a 12-week dosage interval for AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, with Khairy saying that certain people, like students studying abroad, can apply from next week onwards to get their second dose earlier. 

“To shorten the dosage, we’ll follow the recommendation from WHO (World Health Organization) that is four to eight weeks,” said Khairy.

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