KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 — Malaysia has set a three-month interval period for Covid-19 booster shots for Pfizer and AstraZeneca (AZ) recipients, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced.

He said that appointments for the booster doses will be decided based on certain criteria, such as age de-escalation and health status.

He said that preliminary studies involving 21 million booster doses conducted in the United Kingdom have shown very convincing safety data.

“In line with that, regulatory bodies such as in the UK, Canada and Australia as well as a panel of health experts now recommend that the time interval for booster dose vaccination can be given as early as three months after receiving the primary vaccine.

“Findings from clinical study data and real-world studies including The Real-World Evaluation of Covid-19 Vaccines under the Malaysian National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme conducted by the National Institute of Health have shown that the level of vaccine effectiveness against Covid-19 infection decreases with time.

“Recent data show that the Omicron variant can cause increased transmission of infection, higher viral binding affinity and higher antibody escape than immunity caused by vaccines or natural infections. Besides, strong evidence accumulated over the past three weeks indicate that the Covid-19 booster vaccine is likely to increase protection against the Omicron variant infection,” Khairy said.

Prior to this, Sinovac was the only Covid-19 vaccine approved for a three-month interval period for booster jabs.

“So in our efforts to give out appointments, we will use a priority list which will prioritise those who are elderly and also those who have chronic diseases. The Ministry of Health (MoH) expects that a huge number of the adults in Malaysia who are eligible to receive their booster doses, will receive their booster shots in January and February.

Khairy said that the ministry would also increase the vaccine distribution capacity by opening up more vaccination centres (PPVs) in either private clinics or convention halls, like that done for the first and second vaccination shots.

He said that data from Sarawak also showed the efficacy of the booster shots in not just containing the Omicron variant of Covid-19 but had also helped in flattening the infection curve in the state. The state began receiving booster jabs in October.

“The distribution of booster doses in Sarawak was started and actively increased. Besides, the distribution of booster doses in Sarawak was started rather early, on October 13 and as a result of the increment in the distribution on booster doses in Sarawak, this state recorded the most number of adults receiving the booster dose, that is 53.5 per cent of the adult population.

Sarawak is leading the booster campaign, of course because they had to have the state election and others,” Khairy said.

Meanwhile, on a national level, Khairy said that 5.57 million received their booster doses, making up 24 per cent of the total adult population here.