KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 2 – The government said today it will not extend the March 31 deadline for senior citizens and Sinovac primer vaccine adult recipients to get their Covid-19 booster shot in order to retain their fully vaccinated status.
“The extended (March 31) deadline is the final one. If they don’t get their booster dose by the end of this month, their fully vaccinated status will lapse,” Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told Parliament in response to Kuala Selangor MP and former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad’s supplementary question on the matter.
Khairy said the deadline was extended from February 28 to March 31 to give more time for people aged 60 and above and Sinovac recipients to get boosted — not due to reasons like the Johor state election — as requests were made for the deadline to be slightly extended.
The government has taken several steps to increase booster uptake, including expanding the number of vaccination centres (PPVs) open for walk-in booster vaccination, and providing Covid-19 vaccine booster options at PPVs for those who prefer not to mix-and-match their doses.
“At several PPVs now, we give people the option — Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, and others — and this has helped to increase the vaccination coverage among those who may not want to take the booster dose initially,” Khairy said.
On the spread of Omicron, Khairy said while daily infections have risen from 10,089 cases on February 6 to a record high 32,070 cases on February 24, more than 99 per cent of daily cases were in Category One and Two.
Hospital admissions have also moved in an upward trend due to Omicron, offset by high discharge rates as many are recovering from Covid significantly faster.
“Compared to the Delta variant, Omicron appears to infect and multiply in the upper respiratory tract and this trait gives it the ability to infect easily and quickly. However, the Omicron variant also lacks the capacity to infect lung tissues. This may explain why individuals infected by Omicron have milder infections compared to Delta,” Khairy said.
He said this in response to Sibu MP Oscar Ling Chai Yew’s question on the severity of Omicron compared to other variants.
Daily cases under intensive care (ICU) and deaths have also seen steady increases, though the figures are still 80 to 90 per cent lower compared to the numbers reported in August last year when Delta infections peaked.
Khairy attributed the decoupling of rising case trends and its effect on the health care system to the country’s high fully vaccinated rate, low regression rate to Category Three to Five, high recovery rate, and shorter hospital stays during the Omicron wave.