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FLATTEN THE CURVE: IT’S TIME FOR COVID-19 VACCINES
February 21, 2021, is a historic date as Malaysia received the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from its manufacturer, Pfizer. The vaccine is for The National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme. The programme outlines the policies, vaccine supply procurement strategies, implementation efforts, and monitoring of COVID-19 vaccination.
COVID-19 vaccines are effective to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community and eventually curb the pandemic nationally. The government aims for at least 80% of adult residents in Malaysia to be vaccinated. It is essential to develop herd immunity in the community to protect vulnerable groups such as children and immunocompromised individuals against COVID-19.
COVID-19 Vaccines in Malaysia
According to The Special Committee for Ensuring Access to COVID-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV), until February 2021, access to 66.7 million doses of vaccines has been granted to Malaysia. The vaccine supply is from 5 different brands of vaccines. Each vaccine differs in terms of antigen type, the number of doses to be injected, effectiveness, and storage condition.
The National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme will begin on February 24, 2021, and carried out in three phases. Malaysia expects to achieve full vaccination coverage in February 2022.
The Targeted Vaccine Recipients
Phase 1 of the immunisation programme will cover 500,000 individuals. The first group of recipients are front liners from both government and private sector. Phase 1 also includes personnel in essential and defence services. Subsequently, the second phase will involve the elderly, high-risk individuals with chronic disease and people with disabilities.
The immunisation program continues to Phase 3, which will involve adults (aged 18 years old and above) recipients. The programme will prioritise people who live in the red zone areas, followed by the yellow zones and the green zones. The exact dates for each phase will depend on vaccine supply availability in Malaysia.
Any eligible adult individual who is keen to be a vaccine recipient may register through one of the following platforms:
MySejahtera mobile application,
hotline number (will be announced soon),
outreach program (to approach people in the rural area)
walk into government or private healthcare facilities
Post COVID-19 Vaccine Immunisation Safety Monitoring
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), AEFI is defined as any inconvenient medical occurrence which follows immunisation and does not necessarily have a causal relationship with the usage of the vaccine. Examples of AEFI include fever and pain or swelling at the injection site. AEFI are usually mild and might resolve naturally.
However, there is a risk for developing a serious AEFI, such as breathing difficulty, swelling of the lips, face, or throat, fast heartbeat, and severe rashes all over the body. COVID-19 recipients who experience serious AEFI must seek medical attention immediately.
The MOH recommends AEFI reporting by vaccine recipients. AEFI reporting provides useful information to identify the probability for rare or life-threatening AEFI. AEFI may be reported to the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) by either the vaccine recipient or healthcare worker. Channel the reports through:
MySejahtera mobile application, or
Consumer Side Effect Reporting Form (CONSERF), or
Report on Suspected Adverse Drug Reactions Form
Both forms are available manually or retrievable online at NPRA's official website.
Advice for Vaccine Recipients and Public
Residents of Malaysia are highly encouraged to participate in the immunization program to achieve the intended vaccination coverage. Vaccine recipients are emphasized that their participation might help in developing herd immunity in the community. Enquiries on the effectiveness, side effects, or procedure of COVID-19 vaccine immunisation, may be referred to authorised sources for more reliable information.
Vaccinated individuals should continue to practice self-hygiene at all times possible. Also, they must continue to comply with the recommended preventive measure, such as wearing a mask and physical distancing. Each vaccine recipient will receive an immunisation card after the first dose of vaccination. In addition to personal and immunisation details, the appointment date of the second dose is written on the immunisation card. To prevent any information loss, the vaccine recipients must keep the card carefully and securely.
Please visit www.vaksincovid.gov.my for more information on The National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme.
Mohd Shahiri bin Abd Ghapar
Principal Director Assistant UF48
Drug Information and Consumer Education Section
Quality Use of Medicines Branch
Pharmaceutical Practice and Development Division
Ministry of Health Malaysia