KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 — The Sarawak state health department explained today that the state only permits the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s shot as boosters for people who were fully vaccinated with the same vaccine or Sinovac.
Sarawak deputy health director Dr Rosemawati Ariffin (public health) said this was in line with federal Ministry of Health (MOH) policy that has only authorised the mNRA vaccine as a third dose for Pfizer recipients or as part of heterologous vaccination for individuals who received two Sinovac doses.
She said Sinovac, an inactivated vaccine, is only used as a booster in Sarawak in certain situations, such as when an individual is contraindicated or has allergies to the Pfizer vaccine.
“The administration of booster doses also takes into account the prioritisation of risk groups and the set schedule according to the type of vaccine taken for primary doses.
“This policy is in line with circulars and current instructions from the Ministry of Health related to the administration of booster and third doses,” Dr Rosemawati said in a statement.
She was responding to incumbent Bukit Assek assemblywoman Irene Chang, who reportedly questioned why Sinovac is not available as booster shots in Sarawak unlike in Sabah.
The Borneo Post quoted Chang as saying that she had seen a digital vaccination certificate of a Sabahan who received Sinovac for all three coronavirus vaccine doses. She claimed that some people were still not convinced with mix-and-match vaccines, or heterologous vaccination with a different vaccine for a third dose from the first two.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted Wednesday that about 40 per cent of those who received appointments for boosters were not turning up for their appointments. Boosters are currently prioritised for frontline workers and senior citizens aged 60 years and above.
“If booster take up is low, especially among the elderly and those with comorbidities, hospitalisation numbers will go up. This is for sure. If you get an appointment, take the booster.”
Boosters are offered to people at least three months after their second Sinovac shot and at least six months after their second Pfizer dose.
An October real-world study released by the Chile government on more than 4.7 million people fully inoculated with Sinovac, including over two million who received a booster shot, showed higher efficacy against Covid-19 infection for mix-and-match vaccines with Pfizer or AstraZeneca-Oxford, compared to homologous vaccination with Sinovac.
Effectiveness against Covid-19 increased to 90 per cent and 93 per cent for Pfizer or AstraZeneca respectively as a third dose, compared to 80 per cent for a third Sinovac jab. The baseline efficacy for the three vaccines prior to booster shots was 56 per cent.
Effectiveness against hospitalisation from Covid-19 rose to 87 per cent for Pfizer as a booster, compared to 88 per cent for Sinovac and 96 per cent for AstraZeneca, from 84 per cent for all three shots.
An updated version of Chile’s study showed higher efficacy with Pfizer or AstraZeneca as boosters for Sinovac recipients compared to a third Sinovac jab in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection, symptomatic disease, hospital admissions, and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions.
A separate study by Turkey’s Manisa Celal Bayar University on health care professionals who were double vaccinated with Sinovac showed that Pfizer as a third vaccine dose indicated “significant superiority in protection (both in terms of antibody levels and disease status)” compared to the third dose of Sinovac.
Those who received a third dose with Pfizer showed antibody levels exceeding the maximum measurable levels in 95 per cent of participants. Antibody protection had declined to 56 per cent after the third month following the second Sinovac shot.
Malaysian pharmaceutical company Pharmaniaga Berhad — the exclusive distributor and fill-and-finish manufacturer for Sinovac in Malaysia — appeared to misrepresent the Chile study in a November 5 statement by claiming that three Sinovac doses was “better” than mix-and-match booster vaccines. Pharmaniaga also cited an immunogenicity test in Turkey for that claim, but did not provide a reference.