KJ: ‘Herd immunity’ not relevant if virus is endemic

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The term “herd immunity” may no longer be relevant to describe the country’s vaccination aspirations, as the virus may remain in a more subdued form for some time, vaccination coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin said today.

Since the beginning of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, a target of 80% of the population being fully vaccinated was viewed as a marker of success, as it would indicate enough people had some immunity to the virus to limit it’s spread substantially.

However, speaking during an online forum titled “The Path to Herd Immunity” organised by The Oxford & Cambridge Society Malaysia, Khairy said he had already decided to stop using the term himself.

FMT

“My view, as the coordinating minister, is that looking at the data and science, it could very well be that this is endemic and we may see Covid-19, in a less threatening form, stay with us for some time.”

He said that while some political leaders were still using the phrase when speaking about vaccinations, “I have advised the prime minister to be careful” about employing the term.

On a separate matter, Khairy said that there were ongoing discussions about potentially reducing the 12-week interval between the first and second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in order to better protect against variants by fully vaccinating people more quickly.

“We’re thinking about shortening the AstraZeneca interval (from 12 weeks), but the only problem I have here is supply. Part of the supply from Covax was delayed. Some from Thailand is slightly delayed, so we are recalculating our delivery schedule to see if we can shorten the interval period (between the first and second dose).”

Meanwhile, on the issue of vaccinating undocumented migrants, he said that there were ongoing discussions with the home ministry and immigration department about their approach, as the government had to be careful about its messaging so as to not scare undocumented immigrants into hiding, thus holding back vaccination efforts.

“We are going to work together with the UN agencies for the refugee population in Malaysia. There are slightly under 200,000 refugees in Malaysia who have UNHCR cards, and we will be working (with the agency) to make sure they are vaccinated as well.

“We have had very robust discussions in Cabinet about how we can vaccinate everyone regardless of their immigration status, but also address the concerns the immigration department has on undocumented migrants in Malaysia.” – FMT