The Ministry of Health (MOH) will be extending Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster doses to individuals who have completed their Sinovac vaccinations starting today, 22 October
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the dispensing of the heterologous (different vaccine) booster dose is through off-label manner and the vaccine will be given to Sinovac recipients who completed both doses at least three months before.
"For the start, the booster shot would be administered on individuals aged 60 and above based on the advice of Strategic Advisory Group Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) from the World Health Organization (WHO), which met on 4 to 7 October," he said in a press conference on Thursday, 21 October, as quoted by Bernama.
Khairy said the booster dose is free and voluntary under the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) for optimum protection of vaccine recipients in Malaysia, and the initiative will be led by private medical practitioners under the coordination of ProtectHealth Corporation Sdn Bhd.
Eligible individuals will be notified through MySejahtera and for those without the app, they will be informed by SMS.
"The method of booster dose appointments will be improved from time to time and soon, vaccine recipients will be able to make appointments through a system (currently) being developed by MOH," he said.
Earlier, MOH had begun giving Pfizer-BioNTech booster doses to those who had completed the same vaccine six months before
The booster programme began on 13 October for healthcare workers, security frontliners, citizens aged 60 years and above, and individuals with comorbidities.
According to New Straits Times, Khairy also said the ministry has been studying data from other countries providing booster doses to other vaccine recipients, including AstraZeneca vaccines.
"In the United Kingdom, most of the primary vaccines are AstraZeneca vaccines. If they recommend a booster, then we will make the same recommendations and announcements following studies by experts," said the Health Minister.
However, for now, they are only recommending homologous (same type) Pfizer with Pfizer booster doses, and heterologous (different type) Pfizer with Sinovac booster doses.
"We won't discount future mixes of vaccines," he added.
Khairy said the decision to expand booster dose criteria was also made taking into account a recent increase in hospitalisations
MOH data has shown that there have been more COVID-19 patient admissions into government hospitals and quarantine centres since interstate travel was allowed on 11 October, particularly in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negeri Sembilan, and Sarawak.
Khairy said hospitals are seeing more severe COVID-19 patients again, which are those in Category Three, Four, and Five.
"These leading indicators in several states, including in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, are worrying, and the ministry will continue to monitor the situation," he said.
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