SEVERAL doctors’ groups have urged the Special Committee On COVID-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) and the National Security Council (MKN) to consider a third dose of vaccine – and consequentially periodical booster doses – for the country’s healthcare workers.
This is taking into consideration the fact that most of the country’s frontline healthcare workers had started their vaccination in February 2021 and having had the vaccine for more than six months, their antibody levels are expected to wane, said the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM), the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) and the Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia in a joint press statement on Wednesday (Sept 8).
“Healthcare workers are more exposed to the coronavirus compared to any other professions, so their risk of contracting the virus is very high,” they said.
Israel’s Health Ministry had, in August 2021, released raw data on vaccinations and infections from December 2020 to July 2021.
According to the ministry, it is estimated that vaccine protection against both infection and disease had dropped from above 90% in the early months of its programme to around 40% by late June 2021 – a decline that could be due to the effects of the Delta variant.
Closer to home, the Indonesian government had started administering a third COVID-19 shot to healthcare workers following the deaths of hundreds of frontliners in the past two months -many of whom had been fully vaccinated – due to the spread of the more contagious Delta variant.
“We admit that there are many unknowns on what the true ‘correlates of protection’ are when it comes to immunity and a lack of hard clinical data that vaccine effectiveness is truly waning.
“Still, we have noted that physicians in many countries like Germany, France, Israel and the United Kingdom (UK) have pulled the trigger on booster doses, especially for the more vulnerable populations, as well as for healthcare workers even if they are not immunocompromised or if their antibody titers are low.”
According to the doctor groups, third doses of vaccines developed by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sinovac had prompted a spike in levels of infection-blocking ‘neutralising’ antibodies when administered several months after the second dose.
An ongoing UK trial will test various combinations of boosters, including using a different vaccine from the original inoculations.
Preliminary studies of these ‘mix and match’ strategies suggest that they could lead to more
robust immune responses, characterized by high levels of both antibodies and T-cells, which kill infected cells and support other antiviral responses.
“We are aware that many have not even got their first dose. The ramp-up to immunise them must continue, but it would make sense to concomitantly protect the very people, like ICU doctors, ID physicians, General Practitioners, nursing personnel and all who make these efforts possible by being in the frontline of the COVID-19 battles,” they concluded. – Sept 8, 2021.