Khairy Jamaluddin
KUCHING (May 17): Sarawak has agreed to make available the AstraZeneca (AZ) Covid-19 vaccine on a voluntary basis to the people in the state after initially deciding against it due to public concerns over its side effects.
National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme coordinating minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, told a press conference via Zoom today that the state had given its consent, adding that the state would be included in the second round of the vaccines opt-in programme.
Sarawak has agreed to the voluntary use of AstraZeneca and we will communicate with the state Health Department on what is the best way to implement it in Sarawak, he said, when asked about Sarawaks position on the AZ vaccine.
He said besides Sarawak, the AZ vaccine would also be extended to Johor and Penang for the second round of voluntary vaccinations, which opens for registration on May 23 to 26.
In tandem with rising cases, the vaccine registration will also be extended outside of the Klang Valley to three other states, namely Johor, Sarawak and Penang due to high Covid-19 cases in these states, he said.
Khairy pointed out, however, the second round of the AZ opt in programme would prioritise those above 60 years old but if there were excess vaccine slots, the vaccine would be offered to the public for registration after May 26.
High risk groups such as those above the age of 60 will be given early access for the AstraZeneca vaccine registration for round two, he explained.
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Sarawak had last month turned away the AZ vaccine when Khairy offered it to the state after the federal government decided to remove it from the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme and to make it available to Malaysians via the voluntary programme.
Besides possible blood clots, Khairy had said previously that the possible AZ vaccine side effects could include severe headaches, blurry vision, weakness and drowsiness, unexplained bleeding and shortness of breath.
However, the voluntary programme was a huge success when it was launched in the Klang Valley on May 2 with its 268,000 slots taken up within hours. Subsequently, Khairy offered the vaccine to Sarawak again but the state did not give any public response.
This led to a survey by The Borneo Post which found that many favoured having the AZ vaccine as an option in Sarawak though they might not necessarily want to be vaccinated with it themselves.
On May 13, Sarawak Disaster Management Committee advisor Dr Sim Kui Hian revealed that the state was reconsidering the AZ vaccine as part of a roll out together with vaccines purchased by the state government next month.
Sarawak aims to complete the immunisation programme by August this year, some five months ahead of the national plan but according to Dr Sim, only 1,124,241 Sarawakians have registered for the vaccination out of some 2.2 million targeted by the state.
The Covid-19 vaccines currently being administered in the state are from Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac.
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