Khairy: No serious side effects from AstraZeneca vaccine so far

The 2nd round of slots will be opened from May 23 until May 26, with priority given to senior citizens

by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by BERNAMA

RECIPIENTS of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine have not reported any serious side effects since immunisation commenced on May 5.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar (picture) said his team is still studying the reports from Indonesia, which temporarily suspended the use of the vaccine following a report that a man died after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine injection.

He added that the vaccine will continue to be used in Malaysia after the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) meeting yesterday confirmed that there were no serious issues arising from the vaccine.

“We are still studying information from Indonesia. However, in Malaysia, after we started using the AstraZeneca vaccine, no serious side effects were reported.

“So, we will continue to use the AstraZeneca vaccine in Malaysia,” he said at a weekly press conference on the development of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP) which was held virtually yesterday.

Khairy was responding to questions on Indonesia’s move to temporarily suspend the use of a batch of 450,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine that arrived in the country last month.

It was after a 22-year-old man reportedly died a day after receiving the vaccine in Jakarta, with the suspension deemed an effort by the Indonesian government to ensure the safety of the vaccine.

The suspended batch is part of more than 3.85 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine that Indonesia had already received through the Covax facility.

Malaysia started distributing the AstraZeneca vaccine on May 5, three days after the 260,000 doses were offered voluntarily on May 2.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is offered on a voluntary basis in Malaysia as opposed to the Pfizer Inc and Sinovac vaccines, which are given according to availability, with the date of intake depending on the NIP’s phases and target groups.

The offer followed public concern over the safety level of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been linked to rare incidents of blood clots in several countries.

Khairy said the second round of the AstraZeneca vaccine slots will be opened from May 23 until May 26, with priority given to senior citizens aged 60 and above.

He added that the second round would also be extended to the three states currently in the Covid-19 red zones, namely Sarawak, Penang and Johor.

“The expansion of the vaccine to these states is important to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, thus reducing the pressure on the healthcare system.

“High-risk groups, such as those above the age of 60, will be given early access for the AstraZeneca vaccine registration in the second round. Doses that are not taken up by senior citizens after May 26 will then be opened to those below 60,” he noted.

The minister said pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are only advised to take the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer.

He added that the two groups are not recommended to receive the Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines due to the efficacy and side effect data involving both vaccines, which are currently insufficient.

In this regard, he said the CITF has been instructed to arrange and coordinate with hospitals and maternal and pediatric specialist centres to prioritise the distribution of Pfizer vaccine to pregnant mothers.

Based on the expert advice of the Health Ministry, Khairy said the Pfizer vaccine is suitable for pregnant mothers with a gestational age of between 14 and 33 weeks, or is recommended to be delayed until after pregnancy.

“For breastfeeding mothers, it is also appropriate to take the Pfizer vaccine. The Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines are not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers because their safety data are limited.

“Those who have doubts should seek advice from their respective doctors,” he noted.

Khairy held his weekly press conference from home yesterday as he was undergoing mandatory quarantine after being a close contact of a Covid-19 positive case.

The minister’s quarantine started yesterday, while waiting for the results of his screening test.