By Karen Bong
KUCHING, June 15: The conditional approval of single-dose China’s CanSino Biologics and the US’ Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccines for emergency use in Malaysia has enormous implications on Sarawak, especially the population in the rural areas where accessibility is poor.
Minister for Local Government and Housing Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian has lauded the approval for the two vaccines as well as the usage of the Pfizer-BionTech vaccine for children aged 12 years old and above as it would greatly boost Sarawak’s aim to achieve herd immunity which is impossible at present unless 99 per cent of population are vaccinated.
“The single-dose (CanSino and J&J) will greatly speed up and complete the vaccination process in Sarawak,” he said in his Facebook post today in response to the additional vaccine approvals by Drug Control Authority (DCA) Malaysia.
Even though Sarawak’s vaccination rollout has gained momentum of late with completion targeted at the end of August, Dr Sim explained that Sarawak may need to vaccinate 99 per cent of Sarawakians if the State wants to achieve at least 70 per cent herd immunity.
“With these approvals, once we vaccinate all eligible Sarawakians above 18-years-old, and if we still cannot achieve more than 70 per cent target, we can safely vaccinate 12-17 years old to achieve herd immunity,” he added.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and efficacious for those aged 12 and above as it is the only vaccine approved for this age group at the moment, Dr Sim said.
Noting that the severity of symptoms and death related to Covid-19 are worse in the elderly population, he however pointed out that the trend of the epidemic situation this year also indicated that there was a 20 per cent increase of Covid-19 cases among those aged below 20.
“Young (people) may not have severe symptoms but with more and more long Covid-19 (long-term effects of coronavirus) being identified, the damage on health due to the disease on young people who have many more years to live remain unknown,” he cautioned.
Meanwhile, DCA Malaysia has today approved the usage of Pfizer-BionTech Covid-19 vaccine for those aged 12 years old and above and gave conditional registration for CanSino and J&J.
In a statement, Ministry of Health (MOH) director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah emphasised that the priority for the rollout of the vaccines will still be for high-risk groups in line with the existing policy set under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Program (NCIP).
In addition, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba had previously said that children between the ages of 12 and 17 years old were expected to be included in the NCIP in the fifth phase, which would likely kick off in August. — DayakDaily