We need to achieve herd immunity, says minister

James Kon

The public is urged to get vaccinated to protect those who cannot be administered with the COVID-19 vaccine, including those under 18.

“To obtain herd immunity, this will require 70 per cent of the population to be vaccinated,” said Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during a working visit to Indoor Stadium yesterday as it prepared to be used as a COVID-19 vaccination centre for Brunei-Muara District.

He added with the prevalence of false news, the public should listen to reliable and  reputable sources.

“There are many groups of anti-vaxxers who claim to be expert, but they are not. We have to be careful, especially on social media platforms,” he said.

Regarding concerns on the safety of the vaccine, the minister said, “The vaccine has gone through a stringent process of Phase 1, 2 and 3 trials, to make sure it is safe.

“Of course, there are side effects such as soreness or redness. There are also reports of allergies, so people with severe allergies are not allowed to take the vaccine.”

Commenting on the COVID-19 Vaccine Intention Survey released last February, showing that 59 per cent of the respondents would definitely or likely take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available in the country, he said, “The findings cannot cover the 70 per cent that we need. But 30 per cent are in between getting vaccinated or otherwise. We hope that we can persuade them to be vaccinated.”

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during the working visit to the vaccination centre. PHOTO: JAMES KON

He added, “Vaccination will most probably be a requirement for travel. Certain countries have already imposed this, and only those who have been vaccinated can travel abroad. We will have a vaccine certificate both on paper and the BruHealth app. Discussion is ongoing for ASEAN member countries to recognise the vaccine certificate, to be able to travel again in the region.”

When asked about individuals who have already been vaccinated abroad, the minister replied, “Currently, we are trying to see how we can reduce the quarantine period for people who have been vaccinated overseas. It is only eligible for people who have received the full vaccination of the required two doses.

“What’s more, the vaccine’s effect will only be felt 14 days after the full vaccination. Therefore, completing two doses of vaccination does not mean that one can travel immediately.”

With the COVID-19 vaccination programme to start soon, the minister said, “The vaccination will be mainly conducted at hospitals in each district. Only in Brunei-Muara will we carry out the vaccination programme at the Indoor Stadium.

“We also have the Centre for Healthcare at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital for healthcare staff, while the Medical Reception Station (MRS) is for uniformed personnel. Assistance from other private hospitals in the vaccination programme include the Jerudong Park Medical Centre, the Panaga Medical Centre and the British Garrison.

“The vaccines will be provided by the government, through the Ministry of Health.

“For those who do not have BruHealth, there is a different lane available at the vaccination centre. The public must comply with instructions and regulations, to make sure that the vaccination will be conducted smoothly. Police and security personnel will be at the venue.”

Distribution of the vaccine is divided into three phases. Phase 1 is for frontliners, senior citizens aged 60 and above, and students who will be studying overseas.

Phase 2 is for staff at childcare centres, adults with co-morbidities and teachers, while Phase 3 is for the general public aged 18 and above.

Other locations identified for the administration of the vaccine are: Pengiran Muda Mahkota Pengiran Muda Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah Hospital in Tutong District; Suri Seri Begawan Hospital in Belait District; and Pengiran Isteri Hajjah Mariam Hospital in Temburong District.

The appointments for vaccination can be made through the the BruHealth app, by verifying one’s BruHealth account and clicking on the COVID-19 vaccination slot. Individuals are required to read the COVID-19 Vaccination Participation Information Sheet, before completing the screening questions.

The consent form should be filled in, along with an appointment booking for the vaccination. The applicant will then be given a QR code containing his or her appointment. Following vaccination, any side effects must be reported after seven days, through BruHealth.

The minister also shared, “Around 2,000 people can be vaccinated in a day nationwide, while the Indoor Stadium can accommodate up to 1,000 vaccines administered in a day.”

On the supply of vaccine, he said, “It is very limited, so the public cannot choose which vaccine to take. We have ordered five types of vaccine. Sinopharm is already here, with AstraZeneca due to arrive soon, then Moderna (the majority of the vaccine), Novavax and also Pfizer-BioNTech.

“The vaccines are coming in stages. It is very challenging to acquire them, because apart from us, the rest of the world is seeking supplies. Our country is doing well, so we are not being prioritised to receive the vaccine. Insya Allah, we can get supplies.”

Acting Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health Haji Maswadi bin Haji Mohsin, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports Colonel (Rtd) Pengiran Haji Maiddin bin Pengiran Haji Said, and Acting Director General of Medical and Health Services Pengiran Dr Haji Mohd Khalifah bin Pengiran Haji Ismail were also present.