Dr Adham Baba: 1 mil COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in Feb, 6.2 mil more in April and May

Health Minister Dr Adham Baba has announced that Malaysia’s COVID-19 vaccination plan will begin next month with 1 million vaccines to arrive under Phase 1. He also revealed the next phase involves 6.2 million vaccines which are due to arrive in April and May. That’s a total of 7.2 million vaccines confirmed for the first half of 2021 and it will be administered free of charge to Malaysians.

The COVID-19 vaccines will be prioritised for frontliners as well as high-risk individuals especially those who have non-communicable diseases (NCD) and chronic respiratory diseases. This include people with heart, lung and kidney ailments as well as diabetes.

1 million Malaysians or 1 million doses?

Several media outlets including the New Straits Times reported that 1 million Malaysians will get vaccinated from February, however, RTM has reported 1 million doses. When Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin made the Pfizer deal announcement in November 2020, it was reported that the first batch of 1 million doses would cover 500,000 Malaysians. Most vaccines including Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinovac require two doses per person.

As reported earlier, Malaysia has secured a deal to purchase 12.8 million Pfizer-BionNTech vaccines to cover 20% of the population (6.4 million). Singapore has started administering the Pfizer vaccines to its frontliners last week.

Source: Ministry of Health

The government aims to procure enough vaccines to cover 82.8% of the population from multiple pharmaceutical firms. Before the vaccines can be administered, it must be registered and approved by the Ministry of Health to ensure that they are both safe and effective.

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As mentioned by Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin, the vaccines will not be given to children as there are no clinical trials on children.

67% of Malaysians agree to accept COVID-19 vaccinations

Source: Ministry of Health

According to a recent online survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, 67% of Malaysians would accept the COVID-19 vaccine, however, 17% are unsure and 16% will reject the vaccination. Those who have doubts about the vaccines are mostly concerned about its side effects and effectiveness. However, 95% of participants that support the vaccine are confident that the vaccines are safe and 90% said they believe that it will prevent the spread of COVID-19.

To prove that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, the Prime Minister has volunteered to be among the first to receive the jab.

Not the right time to reopen borders

Dr Adham Baba also said that now is not the right time for Malaysia to reopen its borders and to allow foreign tourists to enter as there’s still a high number of new COVID-19 cases worldwide. He added that it will take some time for Malaysia to flatten the curve and the government will continue to use the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) as a method to balance life and livelihood to revive the economy. The RMCO has been extended until 31st March 2021.

Last week, Tourism Minister Nancy Shukri had shared that the government plans to open its borders to green zone countries to boost tourism. She said that the government was in talks with green zone countries such as Singapore, Brunei, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and New Zealand.

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Dr Adham also said the ministry is anticipating an increase in the number of new cases with proactive screening of foreign workers at construction sites and factories nationwide. He said the screening involve 800,000 foreign workers in Federal Territories, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Penang and Sabah. Between August to 31st December 2020, a total of 70,000 foreign workers have been screened.

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Alexander Wong