BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The health ministry will begin conducting a survey through the BruHealth app to determine the public’s willingness to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Results of the study will allow the ministry to decide the best approach in rolling out the coronavirus jab, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

From January 15-28, the public can participate in the survey as long as they are aged 18 and above.

The minister said all responses will be kept confidential and will not affect the health code of BruHealth users.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had said public unwillingness to get vaccinated could be a pitfall in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

To increase vaccination uptake, the WHO said immunisation rollout plans need to consider factors such as the convenience of location and time, costs and the experience of being vaccinated.

Brunei aims to inoculate at least 70 percent of its population once the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrive in the second quarter of this year.

The government has secured vaccines for 50 percent of the population through the COVAX facility – a WHO co-led platform that aims to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

MoH has also procured the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab to cover an additional five percent of the population, while talks with other pharmaceutical manufacturers are ongoing to acquire the remaining amount of vaccines.

No plans to procure Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

Asked whether Brunei has cold storage infrastructure for vaccines, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said the ministry will not be getting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which must be stored at -70C.

Some countries that have acquired the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine encountered logistics issues, and the vaccines had to be destroyed because the supply chain could not meet the recommended storage temperature conditions, he added.

The minister further said it is still too early to assess the effectiveness of vaccines even though some countries have started administering vaccine doses.

“To ensure the vaccine’s effectiveness, it takes a while and it needs a big percentage of the population [to get immunised] before we see an effect,” he said, adding that all COVID-19 vaccines require two shots within a specified time.

Brunei registered one additional imported coronavirus case on Tuesday, involving a 28-year-old man who tested positive after arriving from India via Royal Brunei Airlines charter flight BI4112.

The latest infection raises the national COVID-19 tally to 174, with 33 imported cases since the last locally acquired case on May 6.

Eighteen active cases are being treated at the National Isolation Centre in Tutong.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said one critical patient’s condition has improved and is no longer in intensive care.

Brunei has reached a record 251 days without any domestically transmitted cases of COVID-19.