NST: Booster dose programme expanded to Sinovac recipients from tomorrow

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has decided to expand the Covid-19 booster dose programme to individuals who have received their complete Sinovac vaccinations starting tomorrow, said Khairy Jamaluddin.

The Health Minister said the booster dose would be administered for free under the Covid-19 National Immunisation Programme (NIP) to those who were inoculated with Sinovac vaccines and had completed both doses at least three months ago.

"They will be given the Cominarty vaccines, through heterologous vaccination (mixing vaccines).

"As a start, the booster dose will be given to individuals aged 60 and above, based on the recommendations by the World Health Organisation's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (Sage) on Immunisation, which met on Oct 4 to 7, 2021," he said in a press conference today.

The booster dose programme would be led by private medical practitioners under the coordination of ProtectHealth Corporation Sdn Bhd, he said, adding the Cominarty heterologous vaccination would be off-label use.

Eligible individuals would be notified through their MySejahtera application and through short messaging service (SMS) for those without the app.

"Booster doses are voluntary and given for free under the NIP. The objective of administering booster doses is to ensure an optimum protection level for Covid-19 vaccine recipients in Malaysia.

"The method of booster dose appointments will be improved from time to time and soon, vaccine recipients will be able to make appointments through a system (currently) being developed by the Health Ministry," he said.

Khairy said the decision to expand the booster dose programme was made after taking into account the increase in hospitalisations, particularly in the central zone (Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya), Sarawak, and Negri Sembilan.

Health Ministry data had shown that there was an increasing trend in patient admissions into government hospitals and Covid-19 Low-Risk Quarantine and Treatment Centres (PKRC), particularly after interstate travel was allowed on Oct 11.

"The same situation also happened in Sarawak and Negri Sembilan, especially in patients in Categories Three, Four and Five.

"These leading indicators in several states, including in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur are worrying, and the ministry will continue to monitor the situation," he said, adding the ministry recommended those eligible to get the booster dose.

Since the booster programme began on Oct 13 for Cominarty (produced by Pfizer-BioNTech) vaccine recipients, a total of 47,728 people had received their booster dose.

The booster dose is offered to healthcare and security frontliners, the elderly aged 60 years and above, and individuals with comorbidities.

Khairy also said the ministry was studying data from other countries on providing booster doses to other vaccine recipients, including the AstraZeneca vaccines.

"In the United Kingdom, most of the primary vaccines are AstraZeneca vaccines. If they recommend a booster, then we make the same recommendations and announcements following studies by experts.

"For now, we are recommending homologous (same vaccine) Pfizer booster vaccines, and Pfizer-Sinovac heterologous (different vaccines) booster vaccines.

"We won't discount future mixes of vaccines," he added.

Meanwhile, he also said the ministry was reviewing data from other countries before deciding on the need to make Covid-19 vaccination a yearly requirement.

"Most countries have started their booster doses, but none has yet to administer a fourth dose.

"We will monitor and study the experience from other countries that had begun their immunisation programmes earlier," said Khairy.

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