AstraZeneca vaccine to be used for the elders

Authorities in Europe believe that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe to use for adults of all age categories, says expert

by HARIZAH KAMEL / pic by AFP

MALAYSIA will be using the AstraZeneca vaccine for those aged 60 and above, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said.

Dr Adham confirmed that the vaccine is safe amid reports of it being suspended temporarily in Europe due to cases of blood clots among recipients.

“I would like to confirm that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe to use and it is effective. We will apply it to those aged 60 and above,” he said.

According to the minister, Malaysia currently has a lot of vaccines including the Pfizer Inc vaccine and the Sinovac vaccine.

“Sinovac has obtained the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) approval for fill and finish manufactured in our country. It will supply two million doses every month.

“This means our supply will be sufficient for Phase 2 and then Phase 3 (of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme), along with the AstraZeneca vaccine and Pfizer,” he said.

The Institute for Clinical Research director Dr Kalai Peariasamy explained that in terms of pre-clinical studies, the AstraZeneca vaccine is good to use for Covid-19 based on studies conducted in the UK, Brazil, South Africa and the US, involving 50,000 participants.

From an early stage, its efficacy ranged from about 62% to 76%, and was prescribed for those aged 18 years and older based on all prior data that do not show any adverse effects in terms of the use of the vaccine.

“From the data, the use of this vaccine in the UK does not show in its early stages a very rare blood clotting, this is one of the issues that have been raised recently in Europe.

“Therefore, several European countries have temporarily stopped the use of this vaccine and have referred to their respective national regulators,” he elaborated.

Dr Kalai said authorities in Europe believe that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe to use for adults of all age categories.

“However, some have argued that there is a possibility that a very rare blood clot could be linked to this vaccine even though there is no scientific evidence,” he added.

Malaysia is scheduled to receive around 6.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine next month for the use of 3.2 million people.

On Twitter, the Health Ministry (MoH) said there is no evidence that the vaccine causes blood clots and that “although there are complications, they are much lower than the complications due to Covid-19”.

Around 91 countries have approved the AstraZeneca vaccine and more than 20 million people have used the vaccine. The NPRA passed conditional use of the vaccine on March 2, 2021.

Meanwhile, Dr Adham said students who showed symptoms similar to Covid-19 do not need to attend school.

He said there were some recorded cases where family members of the students had symptoms, which resulted in transmission of the virus in schools.

“We have explained to all schools that any student who shows symptoms does not need to go to school or educational institutions. This includes symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, loss of taste and smell,” he said.

In addition, Dr Adham said the MoH will propose to the government to halt all flights from India to prevent the spread of India’s double-mutant Covid-19 variant in Malaysia.

“This is an important policy decision and we want the government to take immediate action,” he said yesterday.

Dr Adham added that the MoH will also propose for all travellers arriving from countries that have reported the spread of new variants of concern (VOC) to undergo compulsory quarantine for 14 days from the current 10.

“It will be made compulsory for them to undergo quarantine at the gazetted locations only. This proposal follows concerns that the symptoms from the mutant variants will emerge on the 10th or 11th day,” he said.

Dr Adham explained the quarantine period was aimed to prevent the spread of new cases caused by the VOC.