by AFIQ AZIZ / pic by ARIF KARTONO
THE government has accepted an overwhelming interest from the public over the controversial AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine, with all of the 260,000 available slots taken up in less than three and a half hours yesterday.
According to Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar, the registration website was unable to process many of the requests in the first few minutes after it was opened at 12pm yesterday.
Many individuals expressed their grief when the website, run by the committee on ensuring access to Covid-19 vaccine supply which Khairy chairs, showed that the slots for the AstraZeneca inoculation were already full at 12.20pm.
Khairy, however, assured them there were still slots for the vaccine but there was a glitch due to the overwhelming registration attempts on the website.
“There are AZ slots still available. Overwhelming traffic the first few minutes. But slots are still available,” Khairy said on Twitter in response to public comments yesterday.
Within an hour, the minister received more than 1,000 comments and retweets from netizens who were anxious to know if they could still be inoculated with AstraZeneca.
The vaccine was removed from the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP) as the government believed that it had low public confidence due to its side effects.
In less than two hours, 160,000 AstraZeneca appointments were made and at 3.20pm, Khairy announced that the slots had been fully booked.
“All AZ slots are fully booked. My apologies for the initial glitch and multiple refreshes. You can still click on the grey boxes to put yourself on a waitlist for the next couple of hours. We will start pushing notifications to your MySejahtera apps or SMS soon,” he tweeted.
Last week, Khairy and Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba announced that the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be used in NIP due to public anxiety and doubt over the use of the vaccine, while many raised the issue of blood clots.
The matter arose when some European countries reported cases of blood clots among AstraZeneca recipients and its use has been limited or halted.
The government predicted low take-up among Malaysians due to this, hence, decided to make the shots available to all age groups, although the NIP’s Phase 2 which started in April focuses on senior citizens and high-risk groups, comprising 9.4 million vaccine recipients.
In a recent note, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said the vaccine made by AstraZeneca plc risked serious blood clots.
However, the said risk is approximately one in 250,000 people vaccinated, or four in a million, based on the vaccination rolled out in the country.
Putrajaya has committed to buy a total of 12.8 million doses from the British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology corporation, half of which will come via the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access facility.
The country is slated to receive the first 600,000 doses this month.
Khairy said rather than wasting the 268,600 initial doses of the vaccine which arrived two weeks ago, the government has decided that these injections would be diverted to Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.
The government then set up a separate channel for those who want to take the Covid-19 vaccine, which was co-developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.
“In this matter, Dr Adham and I have discussed closely on the use of the 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,” Khairy said in the joint press conference last Monday, three days after the vaccine arrived.
The designated vaccine administration centres (PPV) for the AstraZeneca vaccine are Universiti of Malaya (UM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur the Ideal Convention Centre Shah Alam.
The UM PPV was the first venue that was fully booked yesterday.
Khairy said as the interval period for AstraZeneca is 12 weeks, the government would have ample time to accommodate the second shots if the second dose of the vaccine arrives as scheduled this month.
Interested individuals who have registered under the NIP programme do not have to re-register for the vaccine, but only book their slots according to the available PPVs.