Malaysia to use mix-and-match approach for Covid-19 vaccine boosters, says Health Minister

The rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in Sarawak may be due to several factors despite the state's high vaccination rate.
The rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in Sarawak may be due to several factors despite the state's high vaccination rate.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia will use a "mix-and-match" approach for those eligible for Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin on Monday (Oct 4).

"Following a study on safety, it was recommended to the Special Committee for Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) to allow for a heterologous vaccination approach.

"This approach will allow for a different vaccine to be administered as the booster dose and not necessarily using the same vaccine which the individual was given during vaccination," he said when replying to a question raised by a Member of Parliament in the Lower House.

Mr Khairy said this first booster dose is set to begin in Sarawak this month, with senior citizens as the initial target group.

To a question by another MP, Mr Khairy noted the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in Sarawak may be due to several factors despite the state's high vaccination rate.

"It is not fully proven by studies but there is the issue of waning of the effect of the vaccine. Sarawak was one of the fastest states to get its adult population vaccinated and this may be the reason," said Mr Khairy.

"That is why we will be starting with the booster shots in Sarawak this month among the elderly," he added.

The health minister also said the previous early opening of economic sectors in Sarawak, and swifter spread of the virus in longhouses, may have also contributed to the spike in cases there.

Almost 90 per cent of adults in Sarawak, Malaysia's largest state by land size, have been fully vaccinated since early last month but it continued to record a high number of new daily cases.

On a separate issue, Mr Khairy said that genome sequencing of 1,312 Covid-19 samples revealed that 94.9 per cent or 1,246 were of the Delta variant.

"A total of 11 were the Beta variant and 55 were not variants of concern.

"Also, at the moment, no Mu or Lambda variants were detected in samples in Malaysia," he added.

He said that RM13.9 million (S$4.5 million) had been allocated to seven laboratories around the country to carry out genome sequencing of the virus here.