Health Minister Khairy has alluded to the reality that booster shots may be implemented as compulsory in order to be classified as fully vaccinated.
He says that the country’s uptake of booster doses has been disappointingly low, adding that the ministry’s first choice is the persuade and encourage the people to get their boosters, however, if this measure did not work, then harsher more forceful rulings may have to be implemented.
Booster Shot May Become Compulsory To Be Considered Fully Vaccinated Warns Khairy
Khairy Jamaluddin, the country’s health minister, said this was one of many measures he was considering if booster shot uptake remained low and to prevent a new wave of diseases.
“I cannot discount any possibility. I need to leave every eventuality on the table.
“The first way (to improve booster shots uptake rates) is to persuade, encourage and plead. This is the approach that we are taking for now.
“Second, we can make booster shots a condition, meaning that you would not be considered fully vaccinated unless you get a booster dose.
“That’s Plan B," he said in a special interview with the New Straits Times Press yesterday.
Earlier this month, Khairy said that over 40% of individuals scheduled for booster shots did not show up.
He cautioned that if the trend continued, the number of hospitalizations would rise.
He hoped that those who obtained booster dose appointments would follow through on their visits, since statistics indicated that immunity to Covid-19 waned with time.
“The booster dose is very important, especially for the elderly and those with comorbidities, who can suffer severe symptoms if they contract the virus.
“I hope with the booster dose most people will eventually be vaccinated against Covid-19 or have natural immunity and it can be like the common flu.
“But we don’t know yet, especially with new variants. It can also be a yearly jab, like annual flu jabs, but I don’t know yet… No one knows."
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He noted that the country’s movement had returned to pre-pandemic levels, but cautioned against complacency.
He expressed worry about this increased mobility, noting that the national hospital bed utilisation rate had been over 50% for the previous two weeks.
“Our mobility (rate) has returned to pre-pandemic levels. People are moving (around) at the same rate as they have before March last year.
“And we have started to feel very, very complacent about Covid-19… If we continue this, then a fourth wave is inevitable."
Khairy said that it was critical to minimise Covid-19 transmission in order to avoid a spike in infections next month and a spike in hospitalizations that would pressure the public healthcare system.
He said that although the Covid-19 National Vaccination Program was a success, certain sectors believed that there was no longer a need for caution.
“This perception is incorrect. We can see that hospitalisation rates have increased and the number of cases has remained on a horizontal trend for the past one or two weeks.
“It has not risen drastically, but the hospitalisation rate can be an early sign of something undesirable.
“If we don’t act now, then there will be a wave of infections and an increase in hospitalisations."
He advised the public to continue to follow Covid-19 standard operating procedures and to practice TRIIS — test, report, isolate, inform, and seek (SOP).
Yesterday at midday, the country had reported 4,885 new Covid-19 cases, increasing the total to 2,591,486.
In contrast to other European countries, Khairy said that Malaysia was not ready to forego “basic" SOPs, such as wearing face masks, in order to reduce Covid-19 transmission.
He said that wearing face masks would limit virus exposure, a claim backed up by statistics and research.
He referenced reports of high-ranking World Health Organization experts indicating that Europe was once again the epicentre of the epidemic.
“Countries such as Germany and Austria are facing a fresh Covid-19 wave that is quite huge, which emerged after many people have yet to get vaccinated and Covid-19 prevention measures, such as wearing face masks, have been cast aside.
“For Malaysia, our position at the moment is that we will not do away with the SOP."
Dr Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for the 53-country Europe region, was cited as stating that the increasing number of Covid-19 cases is a “grave concern." He blamed Europe’s soaring infection rate on weak public health measures.
The WHO warning comes after Germany reported more than 37,000 new cases in a single day earlier this month, and Austria became the first country in western Europe to reimpose a full lockdown in response to the increase in Covid-19 infections.