KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 – Khairy Jamaluddin today recommended second booster doses for all individuals aged 18 and older, regardless of their health status, amid a growing wave of Malaysia’s Covid-19 epidemic.
The caretaker health minister said four cases of the XBB sub-variant of the Omicron variant have been detected in Malaysia as of October 27 – Selangor and Negeri Sembilan – including one that was a case of reinfection.
All four – three men and one woman aged between 25 and 51 years, who had mild Covid-19 in Category Two – did not have travel history abroad or a history of contact with XBB cases.
“Individuals who have never been infected with Covid-19, those who were only infected with the Delta variant previously, or those who were infected with the Omicron variant more than six months ago have a higher risk of getting infected with the XBB sub-variant,” Khairy told a press conference today in an update on Malaysia’s Covid-19 situation.
“Likewise, if the last vaccine dose was taken more than six months ago, the risk of infection with the XBB sub-variant is higher. Therefore, it’s important to get a booster dose.”
As of October 29, only 1.6 per cent of Malaysia’s total population has received their second Covid-19 booster shot. Nearly half, 49.8 per cent, have taken their first booster.
Khairy said the Ministry of Health (MOH) recommends second booster jabs for adults aged 18 and above regardless of their health status, as well as pregnant women and health care workers. The second Covid booster dose can be taken six months after the first booster.
The first Covid-19 booster is now recommended for those aged 12 years and above, regardless of health status. It can be taken six months after the second dose.
Khairy also said the government has ordered Pfizer-BioNTech’s new bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, an updated version of the original vaccine that targets both the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants.
The bivalent formulation of Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to arrive in Malaysia next month.
“There is no additional procurement, this is existing procurement; we have changed our order from the old vaccine to the new vaccine, which will arrive in November,” Bernama quoted Khairy as saying.
Khairy said new Covid-19 cases in Malaysia increased by 16.5 per cent to 16,917 cases in the 43rd epidemiological week of the year (October 23 to 29) from 14,525 the previous week.
Hospital admissions for Covid rose 14.3 per cent in the same period. Covid-19 patients in stages 1 (asymptomatic) and 2 (mild) who were admitted to hospital increased 26.9 per cent, while those in moderate to severe categories from stages 3 to 5 rose by 17.4 per cent.
“We suspect that the XBB sub-variant is behind this upward trend [and] is also the cause of the wave in Singapore, which has taken three to four weeks to decrease,” Khairy was quoted saying.
He added that the XBB sub-variant spreads faster than other Omicron sub-variants and is expected to be the dominant variant in Malaysia, replacing BA.5.
“However, there is still no evidence about any changes in [XBB’s] ability to cause more severe disease. The XBB sub-variant is also found to evade protection from vaccination against infection,” Khairy said.
“Individuals who have been vaccinated can still get infected with this sub-variant, but vaccination provides good protection against serious Covid-19 disease.”