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KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — The government will continue with the distribution of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on a voluntary basis in the future given the success of its first opt-in application rollout yesterday, National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP) coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin said today.
In a joint press conference with Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, Khairy also disputed the characterisation of yesterday’s rollout to vaccine inequity since only those residing in KL and Selangor with internet access were allowed to confirm their bookings.
Registration for the AstraZeneca vaccine opened yesterday to 268,000 people in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor on a "first click and first serve" basis via the Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee (JKJAV) website.
“The sole reason for having opt-in for AstraZeneca was due to vaccine hesitancy towards this particular brand of vaccine.
“This was seen in 8,000 cancellation of the vaccine registrations on MySejahtera when we announced the use of AstraZeneca under the NIP.
“And the number of cancellations was rising, and this resulted in JKJAV deciding that we should carve out AstraZeneca from the mainstream NIP and to have this op-in programme instead,” he said.
Khairy said shortly after the government’s announcement, about 80 per cent of those who initially cancelled their MySejahtera vaccine registration re-registered themselves for their vaccine appointments.
“This is data we have showing how there was vaccine hesitancy. Yes, maybe 8,000 is not a significant number of the people who registered but we noticed even people showing up to their appointments start to drop off after the announcement for AstraZeneca's approval in NIP,” he said.
The government announced a separate AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine programme last month after concerns emerged that the European-made vaccine could cause blood clots in very rare instances.
Although the World Health Organisation has since assured people that the risk of contracting and dying from the Covid-19 disease is significantly higher than getting dangerous side effects from the vaccine, fears still remain.
The AstraZeneca vaccines are available via separate appointments only, as opposed to the NIP — which currently prohibits registrants to choose between the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines used in the programme.
“So we decided to carve this out basically on the issue of vaccine hesitancy and to show it can be opt-in on a voluntary basis,” Khairy said further.
Acknowledging the shortcomings of yesterday’s rollout, Khairy said the government had wanted to gauge public demand and distribute the first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines as soon as possible through the opt-in application process.
He also assured that the government will take into consideration of vaccine equity when subsequent rollouts of the vaccine are introduced in other states nationwide.
For future rollouts of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Khairy said Malaysia was expecting the arrival of some 1.1 million doses this month via the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access or Covax.
This is followed by another 610,000 doses from AstraZeneca itself in June, 410,000 doses in July and 1.2 million doses in August and September respectively.
“So obviously we have a steady supply of AstraZeneca vaccine and based on the success of bookings yesterday we will be rolling this out to other parts of country and also take into account of vaccine equity to make this available to everyone who didn't have access to the website or MySejahtera,” Khairy added.