The European Medicines Agency (EMA) did find a link between the vaccine and rare blood clots in women aged below 60.
The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and it will be administered to senior citizens, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba.
“I wish to confirm that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe for use and it is effective. We will give it to those aged 60 and above, the most suitable group,” he told a weekly press conference on Covid-19 today.
He said the vaccine would be used in phase two of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme which began on April 19, covering senior citizens, persons with disabilities and those with comorbidities.
On Saturday, Dr Adham said Malaysia received its first batch of 268,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the global COVAX facility.
Also present at the press conference were Health deputy director-general (Research and Technical Support) Datuk Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim, Health deputy director-general (Public Health) Datuk Dr Chong Chee Kheong and director of Clinical Research Institute, National Institute of Health (NIH) Dr Kalaiarasu M Peariasamy.
“The risk of blood clots in older people aged 60 and above is very low.
“We will be using the vaccine on this group first while studying data from other countries who are administering AstraZeneca to those in the 18-, 30- and 55-year-old age group,” Kalai said.
He said based on data from tests conducted in the UK, Brazil and South Africa, the vaccine is shown to be effective across people of all ages and even in those with comorbidities.
He added that more than five million people in Scotland and the majority in England who received AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine were aged above 65 and 70 years, respectively.
British and European regulators also confirmed on April 7 that the vaccine was safe for all adults.
However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) did find a link between the vaccine and rare blood clots in women aged below 60.
When considering whether or not to use the vaccine locally, Kalai said 22 experts, including infectious disease experts, paediatricians, and geriatricians, had given data on AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to the Special Committee on Ensuring Access To Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV).
He said the committee then considered three factors: Whether the use of the vaccine will reduce hospitalisation, reduce admission to the intensive care unit (ICU), and death from Covid-19 or rare blood clots.
“The panel agreed that on the balance of risks and benefits, the benefits of using the vaccine outweighs the risks,” he said.
The National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) gave conditional approval on March 2 for the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. It has an efficacy rate of 76%, based on data from the United States.