KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 — Sarawak will be a “playbook” for the rest of the country on how to handle a surge in Covid-19 cases despite mass vaccination coverage, Khairy Jamaluddin said today.
The health minister said that granular analysis is being conducted to study the reasons behind rising Covid-19 infections in Sarawak that has fully inoculated about 88 per cent of its adult residents and 64 per cent of its total population.
“We have to see what are the immediate measures that we can take to stop the increased rate of transmission in Sarawak, and use that as a playbook for other states, which may encounter a similar situation,” Khairy said in a virtual press conference today.
Khairy listed three potential reasons for the rise in Covid-19 cases in Sarawak, including the emergence of the highly transmissible Delta variant, effects of opening up economic sectors, and waning effect of Covid-19 vaccines.
“I’ve also asked the technical working group that advises on vaccine selection to quickly provide JKJAV (Special Committee for Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply) with recommendations on booster shots because we are not sure what is driving the transmission in Sarawak.”
“One possibility is the waning effectiveness of the vaccines over time, which we have seen in other countries. Other countries have started administering booster shots, especially to the elderly, immunocompromised, and health care workers.
“So we are certainly not ruling that out.”
Khairy — who said he will soon visit Sarawak — also mentioned that the Ministry of Health (MOH) will work with the Sarawak state government on strategies moving forward, noting that Sarawak has taken the proactive step of vaccinating adolescents since yesterday in order to increase Covid-19 vaccine coverage of the total population.
“But of course, in terms of testing, tracing and isolation, this will be very important in Sarawak right now because what happens or what is happening in Sarawak could possibly happen in other states in a few months time, if it is because of the waning effect of vaccines.”
Sarawak’s weekly Covid-19 infections saw an increase of almost 300 per cent or rose three fold the past week — from 7,423 cases in the week of August 12-18 to 21,940 cases from September 2 until 8.
At the same time, Covid-19 fatalities in Sarawak also saw a sharp 200 per cent increase in the same period of time — from 20 deaths to 60.
Furthermore, Khairy said that only 90 people per one million fully vaccinated people died from Covid-19. Of the 90 fully vaccinated victims, 81 per cent had comorbidities while 80 per cent were aged above 60 years.
“The breakthrough mortality among the fully vaccinated is 0.009 per cent. So get vaccinated. Don’t doubt that the vaccination can help you.”