KUCHING: Delaying the second dose up to eight weeks will not affect the overall immune response as long as the second dose is eventually given, said Dr Helmy Hazmi.
“There is evidence that among those aged more than 80 years old, a delay of the second dose to 12 weeks resulted in higher antibody levels two weeks after the second dose.
“In addition, a similar pattern is seen in a few similar upcoming studies,” said the Associate Professor cum Public Health Physician who’s currently working in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).
Helmy commented on this matter after the recent announcement made by the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) Advisor Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian on the change of vaccination policy in the state government.
“The policy change is a welcome move as the impact will be huge. We get to intensify the vaccination programme, get more people to be vaccinated as soon as possible and as widely as possible.
“Not to mention, this can be an advantage in the face of inconsistent vaccine supply,” he said.
Helmy added that there was evidence that individuals covered with at least one dose were protected from the severe effect of Covid-19. Hence, it would help to reduce the burden at the intensive care unit (ICU).
“Hopefully, with wider coverage, we will be able to reduce transmission of the disease within our community, besides reducing the severe form.
“This policy works very well especially for mRNA-based vaccines as their storage can be challenging. A delay to about six and eight weeks rather than the current three weeks will allow a wider net to be cast.
“In the United Kingdom (UK), the second dose is given between eight and 12 weeks. The first dose confers about 75 percent protection which is 12 days after injection, and it is further boosted to 95 percent after the second dose,” he explained.
Helmy added that countries like Singapore had recently used a similar approach. This proved that the decision made by the government was very practical and backed by science.
“In line with this, as there are Covid-19 infections among children, this move might possibly get more age groups covered as well in the event that green light is given to vaccinate children,” he said.
Asked about the future challenges that the government would face regarding the change of policy, Helmy said the challenges would remain the same for mRNA-based vaccines, which was storage and transportation to the rural communities.
“Extra care is needed to maintain the ultra-low temperature cold chain while delivering mRNA vaccines to far and challenging places. In Sarawak, we are talking about constant electricity supply and logistics issues.
“Secondly, the supply of vaccine needs to be consistent so that the second dose will eventually be given within the stipulated time.
“Prolonging the second dose beyond the maximum allowable period might not confer a proper immune response. However, things are pretty dynamic at the moment, and we will wait for further evaluation and studies before any new changes are made,” he commented.
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