Malaysia’s government has mandated COVID-19 booster shots for individuals aged 60 and above, as well as those who are fully vaccinated with China’s Sinovac in order to keep their “fully vaccinated” status amid a rise in the country’s Omicron cases.
Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced on Dec. 16 that all these individuals must take their booster shot by February 2022 or risk of losing their fully vaccinated status.
“If they do not get booster doses after February 2022, vaccination status will be deemed not fully vaccinated. They will not be eligible for the facilities provided to those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” Khairy said in a statement.
Khairy on Dec. 28 cited the higher efficacy rate of Pfizer and AstraZeneca boosters against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“The ministry’s suggestion is first choice Pfizer and second choice AstraZeneca. Sinovac will only be given if you are contraindicated against Pfizer and AstraZeneca,” he said, state media Bernama reported.
The booster requirement is in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) proposal and was approved by Malaysia’s COVID-19 Immunisation Task Force Booster on Dec. 8, he stated.
Omicron was classified as a “variant of concern” by the WHO due to concerns that it could become more contagious and evade the protection of existing vaccines.
Malaysia detected a total of 122 Omicron cases as of Jan. 4, 117 of which were imported, while the remaining five cases were locally transmitted, according to the ministry’s statement.
More than half of the country’s total Omicron cases were umrah pilgrims, prompting the government to suspend umrah trips to Saudi Arabia from Jan. 8 until further notice. All returning pilgrims will also be required to undergo a seven-day quarantine period at designated places.
“A lot of these returning umrah pilgrims had requested to undergo home quarantine for the seven days, but they had failed to observe it strictly, leading to their family members, neighbors, and relatives being infected when they visited them,” Khairy said on Jan. 1, Free Malaysia Today reported.
The government has also shortened the interval for the administration of the booster shots to three months to curb the spread of Omicron within the country.
Previously, the booster interval was fixed at six months, although Sinovac recipients were allowed to get their booster shots three months after receiving their second vaccine dose due to data indicating a lower efficacy.