By Karen Bong
KUCHING, April 15: As the Covid-19 vaccination for adults is rolled out, it is time to consider vaccination for 16 and 17-year-olds in order for Sarawak to achieve at least 80 per cent herd immunity which may not be possible when 29 per cent of the population aged younger than 18 remain uninoculated.
Minister for Local Government and Housing Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian has recommended that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine be expanded to these older teens given that it has been authorised in many countries for the use of those aged 16 and above.
“It is not possible for Sarawak to have 80 per cent (herd immunity as the vaccination is now centred almost entirely on adults aged 18 and above) as only 71 per cent of (Sarawak)’s population is in that category.
“Given (that) the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved in many countries (for people) above 16-years-old, in order for Sarawak to have 80 per cent of population (immunised), we need to include (people) in that age range,” he shared in his Facebook post yesterday.
Noting that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had during his official visit to Sarawak recently said that Malaysia has made timely purchases of vaccines of 50 per cent more than needed to cover all eligible citizens and non-citizens, Dr Sim emphasised that Sarawak needed to increase the rate of herd immunity by including older teens.
Meanwhile, another weekly consignment of Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Sarawak at Kuching International Airport (KIA) yesterday (April 14) to boost the ongoing phase one and two of the vaccination programme in the State covering frontliners, senior citizens and people in high-risk groups.
Dr Sim pointed out that the vaccine delivery has been challenging due to emerging information on issues and side effects of AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccines which has severely disrupted the national vaccination rollout plan.
According to vaccine arrival schedules, Malaysia had received 1.1 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines in the first quarter of the year (February-March) which will cover 550,000 Malaysians in Phase 1 of the national vaccination rollout.
A total of 12.5 million doses of five types of vaccines are expected in the second quarter of the year (April to June) for the start of phase 2, scheduled on April 19 which will cover eight million Malaysians and followed by phase 3 in May for 15 million Malaysians.
In the third quarter between July and September, 28 million more doses of vaccines are scheduled to arrive in the country.
Dr Sim pointed out that Sarawak should be able to give out 50,000 shots per day especially when one million doses of vaccines are scheduled to arrive in June and another million doses expected in July.
“(I) was told (that) at any of the quarters (of arrival), vaccine priority will be given to outbreak or red zone areas which Sarawak has been advocating.
“Sarawak is quietly confident that we shall be able to achieve vaccination for eligible Sarawakians and residents in Sarawak (estimated 2.2 million) by August,” he said.
Dr Sim reassured that Sarawak will continue to work closely with the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) and Ministry of Health (MOH) to secure the rightful share of vaccines for Sarawak.
“At the same time, we will continue to explore other alternatives as we want to roll out and vaccinate as many people as fast and as soon as possible,” he added. — DayakDaily