Khairy: No Specific Herd Immunity Threshold For Covid-19

Khairy Jamaluddin says MOH is currently reviewing Pfizer’s clinical studies on its Covid-19 vaccine for children aged below 12; Pfizer-BioNTech said recently their vaccine is safe and effective in children aged 5 to 11.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — Khairy Jamaluddin reiterated today that it is highly unlikely for Malaysia to gain herd immunity from Covid-19 in light of the Delta variant.

The health minister explained that when the government first started the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK), it estimated a herd immunity threshold of between 70 per cent and 80 per cent vaccination coverage of the population.

Herd immunity occurs when a large segment of the population is protected from an infectious disease — either through vaccination or natural immunity from previous infection — so the pathogen has no one left to infect, as the group as a whole has protection even though not every single individual may be immune.  

“But that was before the Delta variant,” Khairy told the Dewan Rakyat today. “Delta has basically thrown out the herd immunity calculation and it’s difficult to say when we can get herd immunity.”

“So we don’t look at herd immunity anymore, we must get the broadest possible coverage of vaccination. That’s why the adolescent PICK is very important. We’re looking at clinical studies by Pfizer for children aged below 12. It’s not enough for 80 per cent to 90 per cent of adults vaccinated because children are unvaccinated. 

“So we no longer talk about herd immunity. I think worldwide experts have stopped using herd immunity in the context of Covid.”

Malaysia’s adolescent Covid-19 vaccine rollout so far targets teenagers aged 12 to 17, the age group authorised by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.

American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotech company announced in a joint statement last Monday that clinical trials showed their coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective in children aged five to 11, expressing plans to seek regulatory approval in the United States, the European Union, and around the world.   

The emergence of Delta has seen breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people, indicating that vaccines do not completely prevent infection and transmission, although Covid-19 vaccines still significantly lower the risk of infection, severe disease, and death.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said yesterday that interstate travel would be permitted once 90 per cent of adults in Malaysia are fully vaccinated. As of yesterday, 81 per cent of the adult population and 58 per cent of the total population has been fully inoculated.

“We decided that crossing state lines on its own won’t increase cases, but it’s congregations that cause transmission, so we have to look at public health measures. Lifting borders alone or mobility isn’t the issue,” Khairy told MPs, when Pontian MP Ahmad Maslan highlighted the prime minister’s announcement.

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