Waning vaccine protection: Covid-19 booster shots, third dose may be offered to Sarawakians in October

Dr Sim Kui Hian

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Sept 10: Covid-19 booster shots may be coming for Sarawakians in October as inconclusive data shows that protection provided by the Covid-19 vaccine could wane over a period of time which may be the reason for Sarawak’s recent surge in cases.

State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) advisor Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian said that based on professional observation, he had estimated previously that the earliest possible point that Sarawak would need an additional dose could be in October.

“Sarawak will probably be the first state in Malaysia to start (offering) the third dose or a booster shot for those who still have no immunity or waning immunity.

“(As such we are) looking forward to welcoming him (Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin) to Sarawak next week (to look into this issue) and to decide if any possible additional measures would be taken to reduce the increasing rate of transmission here,” he shared in a social media post last night.

Dr Sim’s comments came following a statement by Khairy yesterday, indicating that the Health Ministry has not ruled out that the waning protection of vaccines over time may be the reason for Sarawak’s recent high Covid-19 numbers as can be seen in other countries.

Khairy added that the Ministry of Health (MOH) is also studying if Sarawak needs to implement booster shots to counter the situation.

Sarawak, the Minister of Local Government and Housing emphasised, has been fortunate to work closely with the (MOH) in tackling the Covid-19 crisis, without which Sarawak would not have been able to achieve a high vaccination rate in Malaysia.

“(And be) the first state to start vaccination for 12 to 17-year-olds.

“The impact of vaccination in Sarawak can be seen in the decrease in severe cases and death rate even amidst the surge of cases driven by the Delta variant,” he added.

Since vaccines were rolled out in Feb 26 and aggressive vaccination drives started in June, Sarawak has one of the country’s highest vaccination rates, with 88 per cent of the adult population already fully vaccinated as of yesterday (Sept 9).

In the past couple of weeks however, Sarawak has continued to record a high number of daily cases and recently overtook all states in Malaysia with a record-number of cases that breached the 3,000 case mark.

However, most or nearly 99 per cent of the daily cases are classified as Category 1 and 2, with none or mild symptoms which indicated the significant reduction in hospitalisations due to severe illnesses as well as fatalities.

CNBC had on Aug 18 reported that it was now “very clear” that immunity starts to fall after the initial two doses, and with the dominance of the Delta variant, “we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease,” according to the statement signed by CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky, acting FDA Commissioner Dr Janet Woodcock, White House chief medical advisor Dr Anthony Fauci and other US health leaders.

“Based on our latest assessment, the current protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death could diminish in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout,” the experts added.

Reuters on Aug 25 reported that protection against Covid-19 offered by the two-doses of Pfizer BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines begin to fade within six months, according to researchers in Britain.

“After five to six months, the effectiveness of the Pfizer jab at preventing Covid-19 infection in the month after the second dose fell from 88 per cent to 74 per cent, an analysis of data collected in Britain’s ZOE COVID study showed.

“For the AstraZeneca vaccine, effectiveness fell from 77 per cent to 67 per cent after four to five months,” it reported.

With that, Sarawak has already started considering and preparing to offer booster shots to all Sarawakians which could probably start with the senior citizens and high-risk individuals with comorbidities or multi-morbidities, who were the first batch to receive the vaccines in March. — DayakDaily