Malaysia no longer using herd immunity formula

KUALA LUMPUR (BERNAMA) – The Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH) is no longer using the conventional formula of achieving at least 80 per cent herd immunity among the country’s adult population in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the world’s health experts had now stopped using this formula and were instead focussing on vaccinating as many people possible as the outbreak of the Delta variant of the virus resulted in the herd immunity targeted to exceed 80 per cent.

“I, as health minister, am no longer using the herd immunity term. When we started the vaccination programme, we used the conventional formula to measure the herd immunity which was 80 per cent (of the adult population).

“That was before the spread of the Delta variant. This variant had basically thrown out the herd immunity calculation and it’s difficult to say when we will achieve herd immunity. That is why we should no longer be looking at herd immunity.

“Instead, we should be looking at the widest vaccination possible,” Khairy said when winding up the debate on the motion of thanks for the royal address at the Dewan Rakyat sitting yesterday.

He was responding to Ahmad Maslan who had asked why the infections and fatalities from COVID-19 in Malaysia were rising despite the vaccination rate of its adult population having reached more than 80 per cent.

Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin at Dewan Rakyat. PHOTO: BERNAMA

Last Tuesday, Malaysia achieved 80 per cent full vaccination of its adult population, earlier than scheduled through the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) implemented since February 24 in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Hence, Khairy said PICK was actively carried out on teenagers aged 12 to 17 years while for children, the MOH was waiting for the Pfizer vaccine tests report first.

He said although currently, the number of COVID-19 cases was still high but based on the important indicators, it had started showing a downward trend and giving hope to the country’s recovery process.

“Compared to the situation a month ago, which was on August 23, the bed usage involved 14,942 cases but today, the number has dropped to 10,321.

“The need for the intensive care units involved 1,542 cases but today, the number has declined to 1,114. On average, there were 251 cases over a seven-day period in August but the figure has dropped to 106.

“Of the current active cases recorded, 83 per cent are in categories 1 and 2 who only require quarantine at home; 10.7 per cent sent to the Low-Risk COVID-19 Quarantine and Treatment Centres (PKRC); 5.1 per cent admitted to the hospitals and 0.5 per cent requiring ventilators and intensive treatment,” he said.

Khairy said in controlling the spread of COVID-19 within the country so as to avoid an uncontrollable situation, the MOH would continue strengthening the public health strategies in flattening the curve of infection and breaking the virus transmission through the Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support (FTTIS) plan.

He said the ministry with the cooperation of the respective State Health Departments, was getting ready the National Testing Strategy to ensure an area could transit to the mitigation phase and hence, determine the level of infection in that area.

On self-quarantine at home and concern over the brought-in-dead (BID) cases, Khairy said the MOH was working at identifying the causes of these cases which were not monitored by the ministry or other health facilities.

“The MOH is very concerned about this situation. Up to August, 2,417 BID cases were recorded but it was clear that 2,200 such cases were not being monitored by the ministry or any private health facility.

“To make the public more confident with home quarantine, if they are being monitored by MOH, we will be sending the devices such as pulse oximeter to them and ensure that could always be contacted so that if there’s a ‘red flag’, they will not be sent to the hospital late,” he said.

On the delayed reporting of fatal cases, Khairy said this was not only happening in Malaysia but also in other countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and India.

“This happens across our country but more so in Klang Valley as from the end of July until mid-August, Klang Valley saw a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, resulting in heavy workload and constraints in terms resources, especially manpower,” he added.