SHAH ALAM, Sept 24 — Fully vaccinated people formed 7.3 per cent, or 418 of 5,725 Covid-19 deaths in Selangor between June 1 and September 1 this year, according to latest data by the Selangor state health department (JKNS).
The percentage is seven times higher compared to the fully vaccinated share of overall Covid-19 deaths in the United States of less than 1 per cent and 1.2 per cent in England.
JKNS director Dr Sha’ari Ngadiman released data on breakthrough deaths in Selangor in a joint press conference with Selangor state executive councillor in charge of public health Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud in Shah Alam last Wednesday.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the country reported 3,040 breakthrough deaths — occurring at least two weeks after the second jab — out of 662,444 total coronavirus deaths as of September 13, equivalent to 0.46 per cent of US deaths.
In England, official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed there were 640 breakthrough deaths involving Covid-19 in people who had received both vaccine doses, which is 1.2 per cent of 51,281 Covid-19 deaths recorded from January 2 to July 2, 2021.
However, both datasets pointed out that the bulk of breakthrough deaths involved people aged 65 and above. The CDC said 87 per cent of breakthrough deaths in the US involved those aged 65 and above, while the ONS highlighted that the median age of breakthrough deaths was 84.
The ONS further noted that 13.1 per cent of breakthrough deaths occurred in people who were identified as likely to be immunocompromised, compared to 5.4 per cent for other Covid-19 deaths.
In Selangor, JKNS data do not include the age and medical history of breakthrough Covid-19 deaths, although its statistics on overall Covid-19 deaths showed that 89 per cent of 8,708 deaths as of September 21 had comorbidities, while 34 per cent were aged 65 and above.
In detailing the breakthrough deaths by vaccine brand, JKNS indicated that Sinovac recipients formed 82 per cent, or 342 of 418 breakthrough deaths reported in fully vaccinated people in Selangor from June 1 until September 1 this year.
Of the same total, 17 per cent or 71 breakthrough deaths were recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while three deaths among AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine recipients were also recorded.
Institute of Clinical Research (ICR) director Dr Kalaiarasu Peariasamy, in a media briefing yesterday, said that AstraZeneca showed a lower breakthrough mortality rate because the majority of its vaccine recipients were young adults, while the proportion of AstraZeneca recipients is also substantially smaller than those who received Pfizer and Sinovac.
Dr Kalaiarasu, who is lead researcher of the Real-World Evaluation of Covid-19 Vaccines Under the Malaysia National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (RECoVaM) study on 14.5 million fully vaccinated individuals in Malaysia, said Pfizer and Sinovac vaccines were generally given to individuals across age groups, including the vulnerable.
According to the RECoVaM survey undertaken from April 1 to September 12, breakthrough Covid-19 death rates were low among fully vaccinated individuals at 0.010 per cent, or 1,445 fatalities in 14.5 million people in the study.
Sinovac slightly exceeded the 0.010 per cent breakthrough mortality rate across vaccine types at 0.015 per cent, with 1,108 deaths among the 7.2 million people fully inoculated with the inactivated vaccine.
A total of 323 breakthrough deaths were recorded among 6.5 million people fully vaccinated with Pfizer, or 0.005 per cent. This was followed by 14 breakthrough deaths among 744,958 individuals fully inoculated with AstraZeneca, or 0.002 per cent.
Among the breakthrough mortality cases, 76.3 per cent were aged 60 years and above, while 92 per cent had comorbidities.
Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine is the predominant vaccine brand used in Selangor with 56.3 per cent of the state’s 3,928,803 fully vaccinated people receiving Sinovac, as of September 23.
To compare, Pfizer accounted for 32.8 per cent of fully vaccinated people in Selangor, while AstraZeneca formed 7.1 per cent of the state’s fully vaccinated population.
The government previously announced plans to administer Covid-19 vaccine booster shots to frontline health workers and the elderly once the immunisation coverage hit 80 per cent of the nation’s adult population. Malaysia crossed the 80 per cent mark on September 21.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters on Monday that the booster shots will be prioritised for high-risk groups and the elderly, though he did not specify the vaccine types that will be used for the booster shots.
According to documents by the Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) sighted by CodeBlue recently, JKJAV is recommending either Pfizer or AstraZeneca for the booster doses — administered between six and eight months after complete vaccination.
Selangor previously announced plans to sell third Covid-19 vaccine doses under its Selangor Covid-19 Vaccination Programme (Selvax) that currently offers only the Sinovac jab. The plan also included utilising the state’s procured Sinovac vaccine supply to inoculate children below the age of 18.
The National Covid-19 Immunisation Adolescents Programme (PICK Remaja) for adolescents aged 12 to 17 that officially began on Monday currently administers only Pfizer shots.
Dr Siti Mariah said at the Wednesday press conference that the state government will follow the recommendations and policies set by JKJAV, although it is ready to deploy its Sinovac vaccines as booster doses or to vaccinate children.
“We’ve yet to see what JKJAV’s policies are on booster shots; if there are any plans to use Sinovac (for Sinovac recipients), or Pfizer, or AstraZeneca — we will have to wait for their decision on that. For adolescents aged 12 to 17, the Ministry of Health has stipulated that only Pfizer will be used,” Dr Siti Mariah said.
When asked if Selangor will push for Sinovac use in the booster shot programme, Dr Siti Mariah said any decision made has to be based on data. “It has to be medically safe,” she said.