KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia is studying if it is necessary to give booster Covid-19 vaccine shots as it grapples with the virus flare-up.
An expert committee has been set up to assess the need for a third shot and is expected to give its recommendation by the end of the month, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said at a briefing on Wednesday (Sept 1).
For now, the government will continue to focus on people who have not received even their first shot, he said.
Only 46 per cent of the population have been fully inoculated as at Tuesday, he said, adding that the focus is on states where vaccination coverage is low.
Malaysia added 18,762 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 1.76 million.
Daily infections have soared nearly three-fold despite the containment measures, hitting a record 24,599 late last month and turning the country into South-east Asia's Covid-19 hot spot.
Another 278 deaths were reported on Wednesday, bringing total fatalities to nearly 17,000.
Mr Khairy said the country should begin treating Covid-19 as endemic by the end of October, when 80 per cent of the population is expected to be vaccinated.
"By then, we will reach a phase where we start living with the virus," he said. "Right now, there are some states that are still in mitigation and containment mode."
Mr Khairy said being in an endemic phase would mean more economic sectors being reopened, with new Covid-19 norms being practised.
He added that the ministry would continue to make mask-wearing mandatory for the foreseeable future.
"We have seen how some countries had to make mask-wearing compulsory again following the emergence of more contagious variants.
"So we will retain the mask mandate," he said.