KUALA LUMPUR - Vulnerable and high-risk groups in Malaysia will receive Covid-19 booster shots once more than 80 per cent of the adult population are fully vaccinated, a milestone that will be crossed on Monday (Sept 20).
As at Sunday, 78.2 per cent of adults have been fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Sunday that the booster shots will be prioritised for front-liners, the immunocompromised and elderly people with comorbidities.
"This will start when the vaccination coverage for adults reaches 80 per cent," he said.
"The third dose can increase the immunity levels among individuals who are at high risk for Covid 19 infections, as immunity levels might dip after a certain period of time," he added.
Datuk Seri Ismail also announced that the government would provide a Covid-19 care package for the so-called B40 group or those in the lowest income bracket in the country.
Some 3.6 million families will be eligible for the care package, which will include pulse oximeters, self-test kits, reusable face masks and a thermometer. It will cost the government RM471.6 million (S$152 million).
Malaysia aims to fully reopen its economy and transition to an endemic phase of the disease by the end of next month, when all adults are expected to be fully vaccinated. This will pave the way for the start of vaccinations for the under-18 population.
Further details about the administering of booster shots would be released by the Health Ministry in due course, Mr Ismail said.
Separately, on Sunday, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the target was for booster shots to be rolled out early next month and that this will be extended to other groups once those identified for the initial phases had received their third shot.
"They (the vulnerable and high-risk groups) make up the majority of deaths and those admitted to intensive care units," Mr Khairy said at a press conference in Kedah.
Malaysia reported 14,954 Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the lowest daily figure since the end of July.
It also reported 324 deaths, pushing the total death toll to 23,067 people. Most of the deaths on Sunday were attributed to backlog or brought-in-dead cases.
The seven-day average for actual deaths - or the number without taking into account backlog or brought-in-dead cases - is now 109. The seven-day average, which has been on a downward trend, was 313 a day early last month.
Health officials say that states with high vaccination rates are showing lower hospitalisation and death rates despite persistently reporting a high number of cases.
The Klang Valley region, the country's biggest urban centre which was once the worst hit by Covid-19, has seen cases decline in recent days. Almost all adults in the region have been vaccinated.
But current worst-hit state, Sarawak, also has one of the highest inoculation rates, sparking fears that the effect of vaccines may be waning. Most of the state's high-risk groups were vaccinated more than four months ago.
Sarawak recorded 2,707 infections on Sunday, the highest among all states. Hospitalisation and death rates in the state remain relatively low.