KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 — The government is currently studying the feasibility of heterologous vaccinations, or a mixture of two different types of vaccines, to be employed as part of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP), Coordinating Minister Khairy Jamaluddin revealed.
Speaking at a webinar organised by the Oxford & Cambridge Alumni Network Malaysia, Khairy revealed how the data of recipients being administered the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines as their first and second dose showed promising results in increasing vaccine efficacy rates.
He said data from research conducted in Germany showed that applying the heterologous approach can boost the neutralising antibodies within the recipient which ultimately would protect them against the emergence of new Covid-19 variants.
“We have some real-world data that we received from Germany about heterologous vaccinations using AstraZeneca for the first dose and the Pfizer vaccine for the second dose which has been shown to boost the neutralising antibodies and to be more effective against variants.
“We are watching this very closely. We don’t want to make a quick decision before getting more data,” he said during the webinar.
He said the proposal to employ the heterologous vaccination method was presented by Institute of Clinical Research (ICR) director Dr P. Kalairasu during last week’s NIP committee meeting.
Khairy added that once sufficient data have been studied, recommendations would need to be made by NIP’s working technical group to its committee before he and Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba will decide as the NIP’s co-chairs.
He said the government is also looking at heterologous vaccinations due to the supply constraints they are currently facing.
“Once the working group is clear on this, they will hand over advice to the committee that I and chair with the health minister and we will implement heterologous vaccinations; it is possible that we will end up doing this.
“Also, when you are facing vaccine supply constraints, you can mix things up and ensure that the effect of the vaccine is still there,” he said.
This after reports of early data from a German trial involving a small test group of only 26 young patients suggesting a combination of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccine doses may trigger immune responses up to four times stronger than if administered two doses of the same vaccine.
The test showed the heterologous vaccination methods to be more effective in neutralising antibodies to protect the recipients from new Covid-19 straits such as the Alpha and Beta strains.
It was also reported that repeated doses of either vaccine showed a tendency of it becoming less effective over time, or induced stronger side effects with repeated doses.