Malaysia is looking into mixing two different Covid-19 vaccines to get better protection against coronavirus variants, according to Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
The country has received data from Germany where the Astrazeneca vaccine was used for the first dose and was followed by the Pfizer-BioNtech shot, Khairy said.
A paper on this method, known as heterologous boost, has been presented to the national vaccination committee, he added.
“It’s possible that we will end up doing this because a lot of countries are doing this to boost the neutralizing antibodies,” Khairy said in an online forum late Wednesday.
“We are watching this very closely. We don’t want to make a quick decision on this before getting more data.”
Malaysia, which returned to a hard lockdown this month after new cases topped a record 9,000 by end-May, is looking to speed up vaccinations to meet its goal of achieving herd immunity by year-end. The nation dispensed 215,876 shots on Wednesday, surpassing the government’s 200,000 daily target, Health Minister Adham Baba said in his tweet.
Khairy said the government is “working together” with AstraZeneca to ensure its Covid-19 vaccine is delivered soon, after delays in supplies from a facility in Thailand.
Malaysia has requested for the Johnson & Johnson and Novovax vaccines via the Covax facility, and is securing 73.5 million doses of Covid vaccines in total, enough to inoculate more than 120% of the population, he said.
The bulk of the orders comprises 44.8 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which would cover 70% of the people and will arrive this year, according to Khairy.
The government will explore enticing people with benefits of being fully vaccinated, before considering mandatory inoculation as a way to ramp up the nationwide drive. The country will be very conservative about removing non-pharmaceutical interventions for the public, such as masking and physical distancing, Khairy said.
Some countries have done it “too early”, especially as some variants are more transmissible than the original virus, he said.