AstraZeneca vaccine voluntary programme to be expanded after rousing response, says Khairy

PUTRAJAYA (May 3): The roll-out of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will be expanded and maintained under the voluntary programme after all 268,000 appointment slots were snapped in just over three hours yesterday. 

National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme Coordinating Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said under the second roll-out, the programme will take into consideration those without access to the Internet and vaccine equity. 

"Going forward in designing the future programme under the AstraZeneca programme, we will reach out to community clinics, so that we can [continue to] offer on a voluntary basis," he said at a joint press conference on the weekly update of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme here today. 

Khairy said Malaysia will have steady supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with 1.1 million doses scheduled to arrive this month from the COVAX facility, 610,000 doses from AstraZeneca itself in June, 410,000 doses in July, and 1.2 million doses arriving in August and September.

He said the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee (JKJAV) will decide on the interval period for the AstraZeneca vaccine tomorrow based on efficacy, logistics and any spike in cases.

Asked to comment on Sarawak's decision not to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine in the state, Khairy said he hopes the state would reconsider the decision after looking at the public's feedback and confidence in the vaccine. 

"Yesterday, we saw very strong confidence in AZ (the AstraZeneca vaccine). We will leave it to the government of Sarawak if they want to accept AZ after the show of confidence. I am open to its application in Sarawak,” he said.

Meanwhile, denying characterisation of the AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out in the country as a "Hunger Game", Khairy said JKJAV made the decision to proceed on voluntary bookings after taking into consideration the public's hesitancy about the specific vaccine. 

He said 8,000 cancelled their registration via the MySejahtera application after it was previously announced that Malaysia will proceed with the AstraZeneca vaccine in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme. 

"The number of cancellations was rising. This resulted in JKJAV deciding to opt it out from the mainstream immunisation programme and have this opt-in voluntary programme instead," Khairy explained. 

He said about 80% of those who cancelled their registration re-registered for the programme after the AstraZeneca vaccine was introduced on a voluntary basis instead. 

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