COVID-19 vaccine: One year for country to achieve herd immunity, say scientists

By Syamsiah Sahat

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8 -- The country is expected to need a year to achieve herd immunity for the coronavirus through the National COVID-19 Immunisation Plan, one of the largest vaccination programmes in Malaysia.

Scientist Ts. Dr Ummirul Mukmimin Kahar from the Malaysian Genome Institute, National Institutes of Biotechnology Malaysia (NIBM) said that to achieve herd immunity, 80 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine.

Malaysia is expected to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech by the end of February with frontline staff being among early recipients of the vaccine.

“After February, the COVID-19 National Immunisation programme will become one of the largest vaccination exercise in Malaysia. The administration of the vaccine will be implemented in three phases and will run until February 2022,” he told Bernama in a special interview via Zoom here, today.

Dr Ummirul Mukminin said the vaccinations will be conducted at 600 vaccination centres which would be opened nationwide under the supervision of the Health Ministry (MOH), hospitals, and universities.

In addition to Pfizer-BioNTECH, so far there are several types of COVID-19 vaccines that have been identified by the MOH through the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), namely the vaccine produced by Astra Zeneca-Oxford, Sinovac Biotech, and Gamaleya Research Institute.

In the meantime, he said it was very important for the country to achieve group immunity because it not only protects those who have been vaccinated, but also the people around them.

“Herd immunity means that virus-borne infections will not be able to infect a group of people when most members of the community have the immunity to fight the actual virus.

“This is important to protect those at risk (people who are susceptible to infectious diseases) such as children, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases (cancer or HIV),” he said.

It also coincides with the aspirations of the National Immunisation Plan by the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee (JKJAV), namely Protect yourself, Protect All.

Meanwhile, Dr Ummirul Mukminin, who was a panelist in the ‘Malaysia Petang Ini’ programme aired on Bernama TV said the Malaysian Genome Institute (MGI) was developing a biosensor strip using Crispr technology to detect COVID-19.

“This is one of the initiatives of the agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a kind of kit, using strips (paper strips) on which a smear or liquid sample is placed and the results will be obtained in a short time,” he said.

He said MGI also serves as a sequencing point for the COVID-19 virus genome to obtain the latest genetic information and mutation of the virus in Malaysia.

Recently, he said, there are more than 30 genome viruses that have been uploaded to the COVID-19 virus genome database, namely GISAID.

“We also assist MOSTI in efforts to increase public awareness on the production and benefits of taking the COVID-19 vaccine,” he said.

The government always ensures that only the best vaccines that are safe, of good quality and effective will be given to the people and there is no compromise on the level of safety and effectiveness of the vaccine used.

Meanwhile, he said the current study showed that the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines produced was 70 to 95 per cent, including against new mutated variants.






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