IN light of the spike in COVID-19 cases in China that was reported recently, the Health Ministry (MOH) has called on the public to get their second vaccine booster doses to increase protection levels.
“The Health Ministry urges those who have received their first booster doses more than six months ago to get their second booster doses and not wait for the bivalent vaccines,” its minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said in a statement.
“The existing monovalent vaccines remain very effective in reducing severe [COVID-19] symptoms and death cases.”
Dr Zaliha further pointed out that only 49.8% of Malaysians have received their first booster dose while 1.9% have received their second booster dose.
“According to the report provided by China to the World Health Organisation, the [COVID-19] variant and sub-variant in China has also been detected in Malaysia,” she noted.
“In reference to existing information the COVID-19 vaccines are effective in providing protection against severe symptoms and should reduce the number of cases requiring hospitalisation.”
On Dec 13, it was reported that the Drug Control Authority (DCA) had given conditional approval Pfizer’s updated COVID-19 vaccines, therefore paving the way for them to be rolled out as booster shots in Malaysia.
The new formulation of the Cominarty vaccine is a bivalent vaccine containing components of the original COVID-19 strain that was first detected in Wuhan in 2020, as well as the more recent BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants.
The previous formulation was a monovalent vaccine based only on the Wuhan strain.
Meanwhile, health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said last week that the country’s stock of Pfizer-BioNTech’s bivalent COVID-19 vaccines is expected to arrive by the end of January, after it was originally supposed to have arrived in November.
On this matter, Dr Zaliha said An announcement will be made “once the supply [of vaccines] have been received” alongside the criteria of those who are eligible to receive the vaccines.
The latest COVID-19 variant – a subvariant of Omicron named BF.7 – is believed to be driving the surge in infections in China.
News of the subvariant has prompted many countries, including Malaysia, to impose temperature checks on travellers entering the country.
Last week, Dr Zaliha also said all those with a history of travelling to China within 14 days of their arrival would be required to undergo an RTK-Antigen test, and samples would be sent for genome testing if they were found positive for COVID-19.
This also applies to those who have close contact with individuals who have travelled to China within the last 14 days or exhibit influenza-like illnesses (ILI) or severe acute respiratory infection (SARI).
The ministry will also run PCR tests on sewage samples from aircraft arriving from China, which will be sent for genome sequencing if they are found to be positive. – Jan 2, 2023
Main pic credit: CGTN