AstraZeneca removed from Malaysia's mainstream COVID-19 immunisation programme due to public concern

KUALA LUMPUR: The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will not be used in Malaysia’s mainstream national COVID-19 vaccination programme, said Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Minister for Health Adham Baba on Wednesday (Apr 28), Mr Khairy said even though the experts found that the benefits of using AstraZeneca outweighed the risks of blood clots, the government also took note of the public anxiety and doubt over this particular vaccine.

"In this matter, Dr Adham and I have discussed closely on the use of AstraZeneca vaccine. We do not want to waste this vaccine which is effective and safe, but at the same time, we understand that in this period, perhaps science and facts cannot overcome people's fears and fake news that have gone viral," he explained.

"Following our discussion, we agreed on a proactive step that allows us firstly to continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine, and at the same time handle fear and worries people have over the AstraZeneca vaccine, which in fact are not based on science," he added.

He said special vaccination centres distributing the AstraZeneca vaccines would be open, and the vaccines would not be used in the mainstream COVID-19 vaccine centres.

"We will open these to the public who volunteer, after looking at all the facts regarding AstraZeneca, to come forth and register at the special centres to take the vaccine," he said.

Rather than wasting the 268,600 initial doses of the vaccine, Mr Khairy said these would be diverted to Selangor and the federal territory of Kuala Lumpur. He added that he had spoken to Selangor's chief minister to find an appropriate special vaccine centre to distribute the vaccine.

Mr Khairy compared the risk of blood clots from being given the AstraZeneca vaccine at 4 cases per million vaccines, to 165,000 blood clotting per million COVID-19 cases and 1,763 cases per million smokers.

On Monday, Malaysian health authorities said AstraZeneca's vaccine was safe for use, three days after the country received its first batch of shots purchased through the global COVAX facility.

Malaysia has secured a total of 12.8 million doses from the pharmaceutical corporation, with Dr Adham saying the vaccine would be administered to those over 60.

In the Tuesday press conference, Mr Khairy said the interval for the AstraZeneca vaccine doses would be 12 weeks.

"This means we can vaccinate more people with the first dose. Additional doses will arrive in May for second doses," he said.

Aside from the aforementioned 268,600 doses slated for Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, another shipment is due in May, Mr Khairy said.

Malaysia marked 2,733 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total active cases to 25,414 and the total caseload to 398,451. About 1.37 million vaccine doses have been administered as of Tuesday.

Source: CNA/vt

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