The booster shot will only be used for those who are above 18 years of age, the health ministry said in a statement on Friday. It will be administered at least six months after they have received their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
High-risk groups like senior citizens, immunocompromised persons, and healthcare workers — who are likely to face the extreme effects of Covid-19 or have high chances of exposure to the virus — will be administered the booster shots.
“This conditional approval requires information on the quality, safety and effectiveness of this vaccine to be monitored and evaluated based on the latest data from time to time,” the ministry said. “It is to ensure that the comparison of benefits over risk for the vaccine remains positive.”
The Asian country had said on Thursday that the booster shots were not compulsory.
“We will not force, but we highly recommend that these groups, six months after their second dose, come forward to take a booster dose, as we feel there is a waning immune response from the vaccines we have given,” Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said at a press conference.
Malaysian health authorities have also allowed the mixing of different vaccines for booster doses.
The vaccines approved by Malaysia to fight the deadly contagion include shots manufactured by Britain’s AstraZeneca, Chinese firms Sinovac and CanSino Biologics, and the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. Nearly 65 per cent of Malaysia’s 32 million population are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus infection.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control, a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot increased the immune response in trial participants who finished their primary series six months earlier. “With an increased immune response, people should have improved protection against Covid-19, including the Delta variant,” the CDC said.
It added that emerging evidence showed a decrease in vaccine effectiveness against Covid-19 over time among healthcare and other frontline workers.
“This lower effectiveness is likely due to the combination of decreasing protection as time passes since getting vaccinated (eg waning immunity) as well as the greater infectiousness of the Delta variant,” the CDC said.