Malaysia will stop using China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine, the health minister said Thursday without specifying why, days after Thailand and Indonesia announced that many of their citizens would get a non-Sinovac booster jab if they had received the Chinese shot.
Thailand and Indonesia announced their policies on a booster shot amid growing concerns about the effectiveness of the Chinese-made vaccine, and after some people in those countries died of the coronavirus despite being inoculated with two shots of Sinovac.
After authorities in Kelantan said the state would stop using Sinovac, Malaysian Health Minister Adham Baba confirmed the move and said it would soon apply nationwide because the country had ordered more vaccines from another company.
“So, it started in Kelantan and soon other states will follow. As a replacement [for Sinovac] for the rest of the population that will be vaccinated, we will give Pfizer’s [vaccine],” Adham said at a press briefing.
“[W]e have secured 45.7 million [doses] of Pfizer compared to 16 million doses of Sinovac. Half of the Sinovac vaccines were already given and we will use the other half for the second dose.”
Health Director-General Noor Hisham told reporters at the same briefing that the main vaccine for the country’s COVID-19 inoculation program would now be the American-made Pfizer shot.
“Basically, it is because we have sufficient supply of the Pfizer vaccines … so now the main vaccine that will be used is the Pfizer vaccine,” Noor Hisham said.
“For those who have not yet been vaccinated, they will get the Pfizer vaccine.”
Malaysia did not offer any other reason for stopping Sinovac inoculations.
On Monday, Thailand’s government said that it planned to give AstraZeneca jabs to those who had received the Sinovac vaccine as their first jab. The decision came after unconfirmed reports about the low efficacy of Sinovac and the weekend death of a nurse who was given both shots of the Chinese jab.
Last week, Indonesia said it planned to give a third vaccination to many of the 1.47 million medical workers inoculated with Sinovac, using a jab developed by Moderna – another American drug firm – to protect them from the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.
An Indonesian volunteer group that keeps tabs on pandemic data, LaporCOVID-19, said more than 1,100 health workers had succumbed to the virus since the start of the pandemic. At least 85 had died this month although some had been fully vaccinated with Sinovac.
Another grim infections record
Malaysia is in the throes of a huge rise in coronavirus infections.
On Thursday, the country broke the daily case record for the third day in a row, reporting 13,215 new infections, bringing the total caseload to 880,782. With 110 new virus-related deaths, the pandemic’s death toll here rose to 6,613.
Noor Hisham said the Delta variant was the cause of this infection spike, and was currently the dominant strain in the country.
The Delta variant can infect after a mere 15 seconds of close contact with a positive case, compared with 15 minutes that previous variants had shown, he said.
Malaysia, too, was mulling mixing vaccines, reportedly to boost efficacy against different COVID-19 variants, but as of July 1 that idea was no longer on the table as the government felt that data on mixing vaccines was still inconclusive.
Malaysia has said that it would need to inoculate 80 percent of the population – 26.2 million people – for herd immunity.
As of Thursday, 8.65 million had received at least one jab of vaccine. Of them, 4 million were fully inoculated.
Malaysia now has one of the fastest vaccination rates in the world, administering more than 400,000 doses a day, The Sydney Morning Herald reported Thursday.
Malaysia’s vaccine supply currently consists of jabs from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinovac. Single-dose vaccines, China’s Cansino and the American Johnson & Johnson, were recently approved for use by the country’s drug administration.
As of June 21, Malaysia had in hand 4.08 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 3.69 million doses of Sinovac and 828,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s jabs, the Ministry of Health said in a tweet.
Subsequently, on July 5, Malaysia received 1 million doses of Pfizer from the United States, which is giving away its excess vaccines.
Under a renegotiated deal with Pfizer, Malaysia is set to receive 25 million doses between July and September, Khairy Jamaluddin, the minister in charge of the vaccine rollout, told the Morning Herald.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.