KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — The government will not include the controversial AstraZeneca vaccine under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP), coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced today.
In a joint press conference with Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba today, Khairy said the vaccine would instead be given through dedicated vaccination centres (PPV), on a first-come-first-served basis, to those who want to take the vaccine voluntarily.
He said the decision was taken to avoid disrupting the ongoing immunisation programme but reiterated that the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe.
“However, we also took into concern the worries of some parties on the AstraZeneca vaccine. Though the Ministry of Health and CITF held the same opinion as the group of experts, that this AstraZeneca vaccine is a safe vaccine and also effective, at the same time, we do not want to disrupt the ongoing NIP and in this matter I, and Datuk Seri Dr Adham discussed in details about the use of AstraZeneca.
“We do not want to waste this vaccine that is effective, that is safe. However, at the same time, we understand that in the situation today, perhaps science and facts are not able to address the worries of the public, as well as fake news which are spread. So after we discussed, we agreed on one proactive step, which I feel will enable us to continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine, but at the same time, we can address the fear and worries of the people towards this AstraZeneca vaccine, which is actually not based on science but we take note that this what the public feels.
“So we want to announce today that the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be used in the regular PPVs. We will not use it in the mainstream NIP. We will open special PPVs for the AstraZeneca vaccine and we will open it up for the public who on a voluntary basis, after seeing all the facts regarding AstraZeneca, to come forward, register at the special PPVs which we will open for them to take the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Khairy said.
He added that a booking system will be opened for the public to book their appointments, and this would be done based on the first-come-first-serve basis for all and not just those who are scheduled to be innoculated under phase two of the NIP.
Khairy said that a pre-vaccination screening would also be carried out at the special PPVs, and those who qualify would then be given the AstraZeneca vaccine.
During the press conference, Khairy announced that Selangor and Kuala Lumpur would be the first two states where 268,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would be deployed for those who are keen.
He said the two were chosen because their Covid-19 cases were still high.
I have spoken to the mentri besar of Selangor yesterday, for Selangor to come up with appropriate PPVs and also for us to look for PPVs in Kuala Lumpur to administer the 268,600 doses,” he added.
Khairy said that the interval period for the AstraZeneca vaccine that has been agreed upon will be 12 weeks.
He said he has also discussed the matter with Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, adding that the period was also what the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended.
“With the 12-week interval for the AstraZeneca vaccine, we can vaccinate more people, give the first dose to more people, and we estimate that the extra supply of the AstraZeneca vaccines will arrive in May for us to administer the second doses,” he said.
He said that those who are keen in the AstraZeneca vaccine would also be given all the clinical guidelines to use for monitoring possible side effects.
“We have obviously now, new clinical guidelines which have been updated following the evaluation done by the expert committee on the blood clots. Although serious side effects are extremely rare, vaccine recipients should be informed about the risks and advised to seek medical attention immediately if they develop symptoms within the four days to four weeks after receiving vaccination,” he said.
Khairy listed severe headaches, blurry vision, weakness and drowsiness, unexplained bleeding and shortness of breath as some of the possible side effects.
Khairy added that he has also made an offer to the Sarawak state government to consider the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, owing to concerns over its upcoming state polls.
Early this month, Dr Adham announced that the government has decided to proceed with the use of the Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca, adding that the decision was made during the vaccine committee meeting based on clinical data which proved the benefits outweighed the harm.
Prior to that, Khairy assured Malaysians that the government has prepared several backup plans in the event that the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine was found to be unsuitable for use in the country.
He also said that a group of experts has been following the development of the vaccine and took note of several cases of blood clots identified by the regulatory body in the United Kingdom.