Moderna vaccine on the way

James Kon

Brunei Darussalam is expected to receive its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine by late June or early July, followed by the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Meanwhile, another batch of AstraZeneca is also on its way to Brunei.

This was announced by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar, in an interview with the local media yesterday, after receiving his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. “Brunei Darussalam will receive 200,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 300,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, in addition to more than 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in several batches.

“This will help to cover the COVID-19 vaccination for 70 per cent of the population by end of this year,” he said.

Regarding the current progress of the COVID-19 National Vaccination Programme, the minister said, “More than 14,000 have been vaccinated and about 300 plus have received their second dose of the vaccine.”

On the vaccination drive for individuals aged 60 and above, he said, “More people are steadily coming forward. But there are also those who feel hesitant, because of the false reports and information being circulated by anti-vaxxers. The public should get information from the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the World Health Organization, which is more reliable.

“The take-up is there, but not as much as we anticipated. We still believe though, that once people receive the vaccine, their friends will be more optimistic about getting vaccinated.

“In addition, some people are not keen on being vaccinated during the month of Ramadhan.”

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar, Royal Brunei Airlines CEO Captain Haji Khalidkhan bin Haji Asmakhan and other senior officers in a group photo. PHOTOS: BAHYIAH BAKIR
Frontliners pose after getting vaccinated.

The minister also reminded that the AstraZeneca vaccine has a short shelf life: “Therefore, if the vaccine is not used, it will be a loss for the Government of His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam. Meanwhile, globally, there are also some countries experiencing a shortage of vaccines.

“Vaccination is not a guarantee. It’s like a seatbelt – it can prevent you from having severe injuries or death, but you can still meet with an accident.

“The purpose of the vaccine is preventing you from getting admitted to ICU. It is not a cure all for everything. We still don’t have any community spread, so now is the ideal time to get vaccinated.”

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital, together with the permanent secretary, deputy permanent secretary, department heads, senior officers, officers and staff members at the MoH, as well as officers comprising frontliners.

Since the implementation of the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme on April 3, 14,876 people have received the COVID-19 vaccine, of which 14,526 have received the first dose and 350 have received the second dose.

At present, the administration of COVID-19 vaccine is at Phase 1 for frontliners, students studying abroad, and senior citizens aged 60 and above.

Priority is given to frontliners and the elderly, since the former have a higher risk of being infected with COVID-19, while the elderly have a higher risk of getting more severe complications from COVID-19.

Although it is not mandatory to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine, the MoH warns that the people and residents of Brunei Darussalam are still exposed to the risk of transmission.

“Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective measure to protect oneself, our family and the society from the harmful effects of COVID-19. In the medium and long term, as more people are vaccinated, the higher the level of immunity of the population of this country against the disease. This in turn will be able to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on public and community health,” said the MoH.

Members of the public are welcome to register for COVID-19 vaccine shots when reservation for injection slots are announced in the near future. Those wishing to participate in the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme can reserve a slot through the BruHealth app or call the Health Advice Line at 148 during office hours.