Malaysia to expand AstraZeneca voluntary opt-in Covid-19 vaccination programme

About 268,000 AstraZeneca vaccine slots were filled up in about three hours. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian government will reach out to those who lack access to the Internet as it expands the AstraZeneca (AZ) voluntary opt-in vaccination plan beyond Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, said the Coordinating Minister for the country's immunisation programme, Mr Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said on Tuesday (May 4) the programme would be expanded to more people as the government expects at least 1.1 million more doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to arrive this month.

"We are looking to expand the AZ programme, as we have more vaccines coming from the Covax facility and AZ itself," Mr Khairy said at his weekly joint news conference with Health Minister Adham Baba.

"We will continue to maintain it as an opt-in voluntary programme under the national immunisation programme."

On Sunday, about 268,000 AstraZeneca vaccine slots which were made available online on a voluntary basis were filled up in about three hours.

Those who volunteered for the vaccinations started receiving their appointments for the vaccine on Monday morning, with the earliest appointment scheduled for Wednesday.

Vaccine shots for AstraZeneca were removed from the immunisation programme, and made voluntary in Malaysia, following news reports of very rare blood clotting involving patients in other countries.

Mr Khairy said: "I do understand it represents challenges to people without access to the Internet or our websites.

"So going forward, in designing the roll-out of this AZ opt-in programme, we will take into account these people. And we will reach out to our community clinics, so we can offer this vaccine to more people."

Malaysia is expecting to receive more than one million doses of the AZ vaccine this month from the Covax facility.

Another 600,000 doses are expected in June, followed by about 400,000 in July - all coming directly from AstraZeneca.

Mr Khairy, the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, was responding to concerns brought up on vaccine inequity during the roll-out to KL and Selangor residents.

He said that the first and second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine is set at 12 weeks, or about three months.

He said in a tweet that the 12-week interval is in line with recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and is currently being practised in the United Kingdom.

Mr Khairy added that the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee will also review applications by individuals who request shorter intervals between the two doses.

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