The country that can’t get enough AstraZeneca as it’s smashed by 7,000 cases per day and forced into ‘indefinite’ lockdown – after initially pulling the controversial vaccine from its national program
- Malaysians scrambled to book in for AstraZeneca jabs ahead of case surge
- South-east Asian nation has suffered up to 7,000 cases and 70 deaths a day
- Government originally pulled AZ from main program in April over clot fears
- But ‘opt-in’ AZ jab was so popular the jab was quickly reinstated in mainstream
- Conflicting health advice in Australia sees many young people waiting for Pfizer
While many Australians wait for Pfizer and Moderna, Malaysians seemingly can’t get enough of the AstraZeneca jab – even after it was briefly pulled from the country’s main immunisation program in April.
In recent weeks, the south-east Asian nation has been smashed by up to 7,000 Covid cases and 70 deaths per day following an outbreak linked to end-of-Ramadan celebrations in May.
The intensive care system has come close to capacity and the country is entering its sixth week of an ‘indefinite’ lockdown that won’t end until cases dip below 4,000 per day.
While Malaysia’s situation is vastly more dire than Australia’s, where 12 million people are in lockdown over small outbreaks, the country is treading a different path with the controversial Oxford University-designer AstraZeneca vaccine.
In April, the Malaysian government pulled the vaccine from its main vaccine rollout after experts revealed a rare link to a blood clotting illness and thousands of residents cancelled their bookings.
MALAYSIA: Volunteers in protective suits lay down the body of a coronavirus victim at a cemetery in Kuala Lumpur. The country has suffered up to 7,000 cases per day recently
The corpse is disinfected prior to the burial at the Raudhatul Sakinah Islamic cemetery on June 15
On left: workers are seen at the gravesite. On right, a disabled woman received a Covid dose at a care home in Kuala Lumpur
But the government still made the jab available to Malaysians on an opt-in basis – and the demand was huge.
The first batch of 260,800 AZ shots, for residents of the hard-hit Klang Valley an hour’s south of the capital Kuala Lumpur, booked out in three hours at the begnining of May.
Two further batches released later that month were likewise snapped up within hours, local media reported. One was restricted to people aged over 60.
The scramble for AstraZeneca led the government to reverse course and push the jab back into its main vaccination program.
“It appears that the people no longer have any aversion towards this vaccine as seen before following media reports linking blood clots to AstraZeneca,’ Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said at a press conference in late May.
Part of the reason for the collapse in that vaccine hesitancy may be the devastating surge in cases which has peaked at over 7,000 cases a day.
Malaysia has two alternative vaccine sources – Pfizer and the Chinese-made Sinovac – however, like Australia has suffered supply issues.
A swimmer suns herself on Bondi Beach and scrolls through her phone last Sunday, some 48 hours after the Sydney lockdown began
Bondi locals get their exercise during Sydney’s lockdown, which will last at least until next Saturday. Australia’s vaccine rollout has been criticised as a ‘strollout’
Australia’s drug regulator approved AstraZeneca for all residents over 18.
However, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisations has twice changed its advice on who should get the jab, first recommending people under 50 get Pfizer,
However, on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australians under 60 could still receive AstraZeneca from their doctor, provided they consider the benefits and risks.
The rules surrounding AstraZeneca differ around the world. In Germany, the vaccine is available to all adults.
In South Korea under 50s are offered alternative jabs. The UK, which now has four brands of vaccines, recently announced it will offer under 40s an alternative.
Australian authorities are expecting shipments of Pfizer and Moderna to arrive later this year and can only manufacture AstraZeneca’s vaccine locally.