Brunei mulls COVID-19 vaccine options

Azlan Othman

The Ministry of Health (MoH) is still assessing various vaccines to be used in the Sultanate and has not ruled out the use of the Pfizer vaccine, said Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar.

“We have informed the public that the MoH will get five per cent of AstraZeneca through bilateral arrangement and another 15 per cent from the COVAX facility, totalling 20 per cent,” he told the local media yesterday.

“Other vaccines to be used by Brunei Darussalam are still under scrutiny and we have not rejected any vaccines yet, including Pfizer, which has shown high efficacy, despite the fact that it needs a cold storage temperature of minus 80 degrees Celsius (-80 degrees).

“The MoH is assessing and evaluating this vaccine and how to acquire it, or to make preparations should we acquire Pfizer. The ministry is looking at the logistics for Pfizer.

“We are also still analysing the Moderna vaccine, where the cold storage temperature needed is only minus 20 degrees Celsius (-20 degrees), and we are also looking at its logistics. The storage facility is not as low as Pfizer, which needs -80 degrees Celsius.

“We are still in discussion bilaterally, and through the COVAX facility to ensure that the vaccine is in adequate supply.”

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham also said that vaccines from China, such as SinoPharma and Sinovac, are also being assessed.

“They have also made statements in several countries on the effectiveness of these vaccines in the media. The Technical Committee at the MoH is also assessing such scientific data to see, for instance, how many people have been put on trial for the vaccine, as well as their ages and gender. We want to know the proportion of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, kidney, diabetes and so on.

“Besides, we also want to see the side-effect profiles of using such a vaccine in a population, namely complaints of severe adverse reaction like allergies and collapses.

“In analysing the vaccine, there are matters to be looked into by the Technical Committee. We are monitoring the results of the trial.”

In response to which countries are categorised as high risk, the minister listed the United Kingdom (UK), the United States, India and Malaysia.

Recently, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) informed the public that the temporary suspension on the entry of foreign nationals from Malaysia – including transits through Brunei Darussalam via land and sea ports – has been extended by 14 days to February 10.

The PMO statement said that transits through Brunei Darussalam may only be considered for official government travels; students who are required to attend school; emergency services (such as ambulances, police and military); and Malaysia-registered transport operators with cross-country permits issued by the Government of Brunei Darussalam for import deliveries of essential goods between Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia, granted that the travellers have attained endorsement from the relevant Malaysian authorities for their travels.

These transit vehicles will be issued transit permits by the Brunei Government, and travellers will be subject to existing entry conditions and procedures.

The statement also highlighted that the temporary suspension on the collection and delivery of private goods at checkpoints handled by runners registered in Brunei Darussalam has also been extended by 14 days until February 10; and that the temporary suspension on commuters via land and sea for the purpose of work extended by 14 days until February 10.

Additionally, the temporary delay for students travelling to the UK has been extended by one month until February 28. Apart from the UK, the delay is also applicable to due travels to other countries categorised as high risk by the MoH and involves all students of Brunei Darussalam.

Meanwhile, exit country approvals for civil servants under the In-Service Training Scheme (LDP) due for travel to high-risk countries will be temporarily delayed by one month, effective January 26 to February 28.

The conditions for the consideration of entry and exit travels are subject to review by the Cross-Border Affairs Steering Committee from time to time.