BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Vaccination of senior citizens is expected to begin in early May, the director general of health services said Monday, once the government has completed inoculation of approximately 30,000 frontliners.

Speaking during a COVID-19 press conference, Pg Dr Hj Md Khalifah Pg Hj Ismail said the next stage of the vaccine rollout is to inoculate to the elderly, followed by students bound for overseas study.

“At the moment we are prioritising our frontliners… The uptake has been a bit slow [due to the pause of AstraZeneca], but it’s increasing,” he said.

“Once we get the majority of the frontliners vaccinated, then we will start the vaccination for the elderly. If all goes smoothly, it should begin by early next month.”

As of April 17, a total of 8,454 frontliners have received either the Oxford/AstraZeneca or Sinopharm vaccine, including healthcare, immigration, customs, hotel and airline workers.

The government’s vaccination schedule suffered a minor setback when it had to temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca for two weeks due to concerns over rare blood clots. It resumed rollout of the Oxford vaccine on Monday, but restricted jabs to those over 60.

“Hopefully we will be able to catch up in the next few weeks because if we’re behind [schedule], then the public will also receive the vaccine at a later date,” said health minister YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar.

Director General of Health Services, Pg Dr Hj Md Khalifah Pg Hj Ismail, speaks during a press conference on April 19, 2021. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Around 38,000 senior citizens will be inoculated in the next stage of the rollout.

When asked whether Brunei has enough vaccine supply to keep up with the current pace of immunisation, MoH said it anticipates further deliveries of AstraZeneca in the coming weeks, with 108,000 doses expected by the end of June. It already has about 52,000 doses of Sinopharm, which was donated by the Chinese government last February.

Deputy Permanent Secretary Dr Hj Zulaidi Hj Abd Latif added that the ministry also hopes the first shipment of Moderna will arrive in mid-June.

“There are roughly about 38,000 [people who are] above 60 years old, and there should be enough AstraZeneca doses, plus the ones that are coming in,” he said.

“Hopefully in June there will be another 25,000 people that can be vaccinated with Moderna… that should be enough to cover Phase 1 [of the vaccine rollout].”

He added that by September, they expect delivery of the Pfizer vaccine and possibly Novavax.