Malaysia to make AstraZeneca shots optional amid public concern

Malaysia to make AstraZeneca shots optional amid public concern

People wait to receive a vaccine for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at a vaccination centre in Subang Jaya, Malaysia on Monday. (Reuters photo)
People wait to receive a vaccine for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at a vaccination centre in Subang Jaya, Malaysia on Monday. (Reuters photo)

Malaysia will allow people to use AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine on a voluntary basis and exclude the shots from its inoculation programme 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 immunisation programme.”

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.

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

Malaysia’s health authorities approved AstraZeneca’s vaccine for those aged 60 or older on Monday, 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.

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.

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