Pakatan backs delayed Covid-19 vaccine dose intervals strategy, tells Putrajaya to learn from UK, Singapore

A man receives the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur May 5, 2021. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
A man receives the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur May 5, 2021. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 22 ― Pakatan Harapan (PH) has urged the government to consider undertaking the “delayed 2nd dose vaccination strategy” as more governments around the world believe the move could be effective to rein in the spike in Covid-19 cases amid the shortage in vaccines supply.

The strategy has been adopted by the United Kingdom since November 2020 and later followed by countries such as Singapore and India, the opposition coalition citing some research that found delayed intervals in administering some vaccines had produced stronger response.

“Our utmost priority should be to protect the maximum number of people within the shortest possible time frame,” the bloc’s presidential council said in a statement.

“By delaying the administration of the second dose, more Malaysians will be given the first dose of the vaccines. This is particularly pressing, in view of the acute shortage of vaccines at the moment,” it added.

Recent research by the University of Birmingham in collaboration with Public Health England has found that administering the Pfizer/BioNTech booster 12 weeks after the first dose rather than three weeks produced a much stronger antibody response.

Researchers from Oxford University had also shown in February that antibody responses were more than twice as strong when boosters of their vaccine were delayed for 12 weeks.

“We strongly encourage the public to pressure the government to adopt this nascent strategy,” the coalition said.

“This strategy has been proven to work and the government must therefore be proactive in ratifying these strategies and stop endangering the lives of our citizens.”

The Perikatan Nasional government has come under growing criticism over the pace of its Covid-19 vaccine rollout, pointing to countries with nearly similar GDPs that have a faster rate of inoculation than Malaysia.

It has also come under pressure from the opposition over allegations that it had tried to stymie efforts by PH-controlled states to procure their own vaccines, ostensibly to protect its political image. 

PH said despite the repeated assurance from the government that Malaysia has adequate vaccines, the slow pace of the vaccine roll-out indicates otherwise.

“There is a palpable shortage of vaccines and its effects are being felt throughout this nation,” it said.

“There is a dire need for us to adopt this scientifically-proven approach.”

It added that Malaysians have become increasingly frustrated by the long wait to get inoculated amid the dangerously ascending risk of contracting the deadly coronavirus.

“The current government has shown itself to be ostensibly ignorant and incompetent in responding to the rapid changes in the situation of the pandemic,” the coalition said.

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