Medical Groups Want Evidence To Justify Covid-19 Boosters

The Malaysian Health Coalition tells MOH to publish local data on increased cases, hospitalisation, or deaths from Covid-19 in high-risk groups, including breakthrough cases, that would prove the need for booster shots.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 22 — The Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC) today demanded local data on Covid-19 outcomes in high-risk groups that would justify the government’s rollout of third vaccine doses from early October.

The coalition of medical groups — including the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia that represents medical specialists — cited the World Health Organization (WHO) that said last month evidence remained “limited and inconclusive” on any widespread need for booster jabs.

“We call on the Ministry of Health (MOH) to release Malaysian data to show increasingly poor outcomes for high-risk groups that will receive boosters, such as increased cases, hospitalisations or deaths, to justify boosters in these groups,” MHC said in a statement. 

“This data can be stratified by age, type of vaccine and time since completed vaccinations, and can guide our targeted booster strategy.”

A commentary published in medical journal The Lancet last September 13 said various studies show that vaccines remain highly effective against both symptomatic and severe disease from the Delta variant.

“Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high,” said the commentary.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced last Sunday a wide rollout of coronavirus vaccine boosters, targeting frontline health care workers, the elderly with underlying health conditions, residents and workers at long-term care facilities, and people with compromised immune systems.

Neither Ismail Sabri nor Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin have specified the list of comorbidities that would make a senior citizen eligible for booster shots. 

Khairy also has not provided data on the need for third jabs, saying generally that the majority of severe Covid-19 cases and mortality is among the elderly with conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. `

The Ministry of Health (MOH) also stopped releasing daily vaccine breakthrough infection reports from September 9. The only available breakthrough data relates to breakthrough deaths, which MOH uploads in raw data form on GitHub. MOH has not issued a report on breakthrough mortalities.

MHC today urged the government to focus on completing vaccination in states with poor vaccine coverage, pointing out for example that only 54 per cent of Sabahan adults were fully vaccinated as of September 20.

MOH data shows that those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated have higher ICU admission rates. Therefore, we must increase our efforts to increase vaccinations in states with low vaccination rates, and prioritise a vaccination rate of 90 per cent for all states in the primary vaccination series. Focusing on less-vaccinated states is important for equity, and no state should be left behind.”

About 80 per cent of Malaysia’s adult population has been fully vaccinated to date. However, vaccination varies widely from complete coverage in Klang Valley’s documented population to just about 56 per cent in Sabah as of yesterday.

MHC urged the government to release details on current coronavirus vaccine supplies and projected delivery schedules.

“This information will prove that Malaysia has enough supplies for boosters, beyond mere verbal reassurances. In the scenario of inadequate vaccine supplies, we propose an equal emphasis on completing the primary vaccination series nationally, including for those aged 12 to 17 years old and non-citizens.”

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