PUTRAJAYA: The Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply has agreed to shorten the interval between doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from 12 weeks to nine.
Khairy Jamaluddin, the coordinating minister of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, said the committee made the decision following the advice of its panel of experts.
The panel of experts who also consist of members from the Health Ministry felt that recipients of the vaccine will still receive appropriate protection with the new duration, as the level of effectiveness remains the same.
For the record, the nine-week dosing interval is still in line with the guidelines set by the vaccines manufacturer AstraZeneca, which is four to 12 weeks, he told reporters after witnessing the arrival of one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Japan at KL International Airport.
Khairy said those who participated in the first round of the AstraZeneca opt-in initiative will be notified of their second appointment soon.
Japanese contribution: Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Oka (centre), Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (left) and Khairy witnessing the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine at KLIA. Bernama
The first batch of AstraZeneca vaccine recipients in Malaysia received their jabs in early May, which means the earliest they would be getting their second dose would be in the first weeks of this month.
However, they will not be getting a different brand for their second dose, as Malaysia has decided not to use the mix-and-match approach practised in some European countries.
Several studies have found that using different brands for the first and second doses appears to create greater immunity.
On Wednesday, Khairy had said the committee felt that the current existing data was too inconclusive for Malaysia to agree to mixing vaccines.
Meanwhile, he added that the donation of one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine symbolised the Japanese governments faith in Malaysias capability to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
The contribution also shows the Japanese governments support towards global immunisation programmes as a method to curb the spread of Covid-19.
It is also a sign of the close relations between our two countries, and Malaysia is confident this contribution will further strengthen this bilateral relationship, he added.
Khairy also said that vaccines were a timely boost to Malaysias efforts to achieve herd immunity as targeted in the National Recovery Plan.
With the new supply, Malaysia has received 1,828,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to date.