Malaysian PM: Country has Vaccinated 80 Percent of Adults against COVID-19

Noah Lee and Muzliza Mustafa
Kuala Lumpur
2021-09-21
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Malaysian PM: Country has Vaccinated 80 Percent of Adults against COVID-19 A nurse gives a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine to a secondary school student in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Sept. 20, 2021.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

Malaysia has fully vaccinated 80 percent of its adult population against COVID-19, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced Tuesday, as other countries in Asia are struggling mightily to get jabs into people’s arms.

When the Southeast Asian nation began its immunization campaign on Feb. 24, officials declared that their goal was to inoculate at least eight in 10 adults within a year to slow the spread of the virus that has ravaged countries worldwide. Since then, millions of Malaysians received Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines in less than seven months.

“Congratulations! Malaysia has achieved the target of having 80 percent of our adult population fully vaccinated,” Ismail Sabri in a tweet on Tuesday. “Let’s continue our efforts to fight COVID-19.”

As of Wednesday morning (local time), the government’s COVID-19 tracker website reported that more than 18.6 million people, or 79.6 percent of the nation’s adults, had been fully vaccinated. About 24 million people of the country’s population of 32.66 million are 18 or older.

The vaccination figure for the entire population including children who have not been eligible totaled 57.1 percent, the tracker website reported.

By comparison, Thailand has seen 22 percent of its entire population vaccinated; Indonesia 16 percent; the Philippines 11 percent; and Bangladesh 9 percent, according to information collected by Our World in Data.

Target shift

Despite reaching the milestone, the very contagious Delta variant has forced Malaysia to increase the number of vaccinations needed to achieve herd immunity, Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah told BenarNews.

“Our target of coverage now is more than 90 percent in view of Delta variant with its high transmissibility – at least 90 percent of the adult population,” Noor Hisham said.

In addition, teens will soon be getting shots as well. The government approved offering the Pfizer vaccine for 3.2 million children between the ages of 12 and 17. At least 60 percent are expected to receive their first jabs by November, according to the Ministry of Health.

When asked if that would establish herd immunity, Noor Hisham said it depended on the COVID- virus.

“If the virus keeps mutating, then we cannot achieve any herd immunity,” he said, noting that because the flu virus mutates, annual vaccinations are needed. “So, coverage is important.”

The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard, which recently changed the way it rates COVID-19 cases in countries by measuring 28-day tallies instead of total infections, currently rates Malaysia as the seventh nation hardest hit by the pandemic, one spot above the Philippines.

The dashboard notes that Malaysia recorded nearly 540,000 infections during the last four weeks. Health officials reported 15,759 infections on Tuesday – nearly 9,000 fewer than the 24,599 recorded on Aug. 26 – before the nation started seeing a downward trend.

Since the pandemic began, Malaysia has recorded more than 2.1 million COVID-19 infections and more than 24,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.

Noor Hisham said the health ministry was forecasting that the number of new infections would keep falling as more people get inoculated.

“We should have below 1,000 (daily) cases by the end of November.”

Booster shots

On Sunday, Ismail Sabri announced that government officials had approved third-dose COVID-19 vaccine shots.

“The priority for this third dose would be focused on high risk groups first, including the health care front liners, immunocompromised patients, senior citizens with comorbidities, and individuals who work or live in long-term care facilities, after the immunization coverage reaches more than 80 percent of the adult population,” he said in a statement.

“This third dose can increase the body immune level among the vulnerable against COVID-19, which can start waning after a certain period of time,” he said in the statement.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said officials expected to begin offering booster doses in early October.

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