Malaysia to roll out AstraZeneca COVID jab for over-60s

The government has been criticised for a slow vaccination campaign amid a renewed jump in cases.

Malaysia began its vaccination drive in February and is now giving the jab to people over 60 and those with underlying conditions [Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

Malaysian health authorities say the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca is safe for use, three days after the Southeast Asian nation received its first batch of shots from the COVAX facility led by the World Health Organization.

Health minister Adham Baba confirmed the decision in a televised news conference on Monday, and said the jab would be administered to those over 60.

Some countries have limited or halted the drug’s use over possible links to a rare blood clotting disorder. AstraZeneca says regulatory reviews in Britain and Europe have noted its vaccine offers a high level of protection and that its benefits far outweigh any risks.

Malaysia, which has a population of more than 30 million people, received its first shipment of nearly 270,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine on Friday.

Ministry officials said the vaccine was found to be “suitable for use” for those aged 60 and older, and they were assessing available data before approving it for use for younger people.

Malaysia has allowed large bazaars to go ahead this month for Ramadan – with certain conditions – despite rising COVID cases [Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

Malaysia secured a total of 12.8 million doses from AstraZeneca, half of which will come via COVAX. It was slated to receive the first 600,000 doses in June.

The country began its vaccination campaign in February with medics, essential workers and politicians first in line.

This month, it extended vaccination to people with underlying conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, people with disabilities and everyone over the age of 60. So far, it has been using Pfizer BioNTech and Sinovac, the vaccine developed in China.

In January, the government imposed a state of emergency that suspended Parliament, in a move it said was necessary to tackle the pandemic.

But the country, which after a conditional lockdown earlier this year has allowed public life to continue almost as normal providing people follow health regulations such as mask-wearing and physical distancing, is seeing a fourth wave of coronavirus cases.

Infections have risen by 26.6 percent over the week until Saturday with 246 people now in intensive care, according to the health ministry. Some 106 people died from the virus last week, compared with 84 the week before.

Just over 500,000 people have now received both doses of the vaccine.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters