Malaysia Makes AstraZeneca Shots Optional Amid Public Worry

Malaysia will allow people to use AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine on a voluntary basis and exclude the shots from its inoculation program amid public concerns about their safety.

“People are concerned about the safety of the vaccine despite science and data showing it safe and effective,” Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Wednesday. “We want to deal with these concerns to avoid disrupting the immunization program.”

Malaysia, which received its first batch of the shots through the global Covax facility late last week, will allow those aged 18 and above to take the vaccine on a “first come, first serve basis” after a pre-screening by doctors, Khairy said at a briefing.

New Covid cases in Malaysia topped 3,000 for the first time since Feb. 24 on Wednesday, and there’s concern that the government’s decision to allow bazaars to stay open through Ramadan may fuel the virus’s spread. The authorities on Tuesday extended the curbs on movement by two weeks in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur and four states, including Selangor.

“We don’t want to waste a vaccine that is proven to be safe and effective,” he said. The shots will be administered in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, where Covid cases remain high.

Selangor Cases

Selangor was the top contributor to Wednesday’s tally with little over 1,000 cases, followed by Kelantan at 523 and Kuala Lumpur at 440, Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a tweet.

Malaysia’s health authorities approved AstraZeneca’s vaccine for those aged 60 or older this week, and said instances of blood clotting reported in some countries are rare and the vaccine can reduce the number of admissions to hospitals as well as deaths.

Read: Malaysia May Limit Flights From Covid-Struck India: Minister (1)

The country secured a total of 12.8 million doses from AstraZeneca in December, half of which will be procured via the Covax facility. It got the first batch of 268,800 shots last week.

Malaysia has secured Covid vaccines from various producers, enough to inoculate nearly 110% of the population, Khairy said.

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