Dr Noor Hisham: Public health restrictions will not be relaxed until herd immunity achieved
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during his daily press conference on Covid-19 in Putrajaya February 9, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 — Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said public health standard operating procedures (SOP), as well as travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, will not be relaxed until Malaysia achieves herd immunity.

Dr Noor Hisham said the government will need more data and will use the four-stage vaccination plan, which may take up to nine months, before the country manages to vaccinate 70 to 80 per cent of people.

He said that in order to open the borders, other countries will also have to undergo successful vaccination efforts as well.

“Until now, there is no relaxation on SOPs, but we are looking for the immunity passport, whether we can cross state or countries. At the moment, we have yet to achieve herd immunity.

“Once Malaysia and other countries achieve herd immunity, we will consider (relaxing the restrictions),” he said during a three-hour session with local and international media representatives today.

Earlier in the session, Health deputy director-general (public health) Datuk Dr Chong Chee Kheong said that the Ministry of Health (MOH) targets to achieve herd immunity by vaccinating 23.6 million out of 32 million people in the country.

Dr Noor Hisham said indication of the country achieving herd immunity will be evaluated by the number of people vaccinated as well as research in terms of vaccination surveillance in the community.

He said the ministry will provide the numbers of people vaccinated through dashboard on the MOH website as well as the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) website.

“The numbers of vaccine (and people vaccinated) changes by the hours. We will discuss whether to provide the numbers displayed through dashboards rather than announcing the numbers every day,” he said.

On February 16, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin launched Malaysia’s vaccination programme, and announced that the country through JKJAV led by Minister of Science and Technology Khairy Jamaluddin has secured a total of 66.7 million vaccine doses, including 32 million from Pfizer and BioNTech — enough to cover 110 per cent of its population.

Malaysia has also reached supply agreements with Britain’s AstraZeneca, Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, and China’s Sinovac Biotech and CanSino Biologics.

So far, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use in Malaysia. The rest are still awaiting regulatory approval.

The vaccination programme’s first phase started this week which plans to cover half a million health and non-health frontliners as well as top leaders in the country.