It’s Too Early To Declare Covid Endemic — Dr Boo Cheng Hau

Malaysia has to continue enforcing public health measures, and we should implement plans for the endemic phase only after multivalent vaccines are available.

The surge in confirmed Covid-19 cases and deaths in Singapore after launching its “Living with Covid” strategy should serve as a warning to other Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, that it is still premature to declare Covid-19 endemic.

There is a need to move ahead of the pandemic as we know more about the virus. A more effective vaccination programme is needed, including the flexible implementation of third booster doses and the implementation of a vaccination campaign for children, in order to get more than 90 per cent of the population immunised by the end of 2021.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) should also announce the daily inoculation numbers for adolescents and children below 17 years old.

The European countries, Canada, and the United States have implemented effective heterologous vaccination strategies to combat and contain new variants. Therefore, the diversification of vaccine sources and supplies in order to make heterologous vaccination more flexible will speed up the containment of the pandemic, and move the country into the endemic phase.

There is also concern regarding the MOH’s delay in speeding up the third dose booster campaign, especially among senior citizens, health care workers, and other vulnerable groups.

The MOH should also announce the research data and findings on the benefits of heterologous and homologous vaccinations. So far, the Institute of Clinical Research (ICR) has not officially announced its peer-reviewed data on the matter.

There are three Covid-19 vaccines available locally, namely Sinovac’s CoronaVac, Pfizer’s Cominarty and Astrazeneca’s Vaxzevria. So far, the MOH has only approved a mix-and-match regime pairing two doses of CoronaVac with a third dose from Comirnaty. There has been no specific data released on the efficacy and safety profile of the said regime.

Data on other mixed combinations of booster doses should be released as well, including Pfizer followed by Sinovac as the third dose booster, Astrazeneca followed by Pfizer or Sinovac, and Sinovac followed by Astrazeneca.

Proven efficacy with more diverse mixed combinations of vaccines will allow more flexibility in administering the booster dose and achieving herd immunity soon, in order to move the country into the endemic stage.

Malaysia has to continue enforcing public health measures and vigilance. We should implement plans for the endemic phase only after multivalent vaccines are available, which is predicted to happen by the middle of 2022, at the earliest.

There are already a few teams researching multivalent vaccines, which the MOH should seriously be looking into it, including getting locally based data on their efficacy at an early stage. This is needed in order to make early procurements and plan for vaccination programmes next year, before the country enters the endemic phase.

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