BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — The Ministry of Health (MoH) is expecting supplies of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines later this year to cover about 55 percent of the population.

A total of 300,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 200,000 doses of the Moderna jab will be delivered in the coming months, health minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar told reporters on Monday after receiving his second COVID shot.

Brunei currently uses the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines as part of its national vaccination campaign, which respectively require two doses spaced 12 weeks and 28 days apart to provide full immunisation.

The addition of Pfizer and Moderna to the country’s vaccine programme will be sufficient to inoculate at least 70 percent of the population, YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham added.

He said the second delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines is expected in June, numbering 18,000 doses.

In total, Brunei is expecting 108,000 doses of the Oxford jab through an arrangement with COVAX, a global initiative to provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

However, the global rollout of AstraZeneca has been hampered by reports of rare blood clots, which led the health ministry to limit its use to over 60s.

File photo: Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine labels are seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Brunei not expected to see vaccine shortages

As India’s deadly second wave continues to devastate the country, the crisis will also have a ripple affect on vaccine supplies worldwide.

As the world’s largest vaccine producer — and a key manufacturer of AstraZeneca — the country is now constrained in how much it can export due to its unfolding domestic disaster.
YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham said India’s COVID crisis will not directly affect affect Brunei’s vaccine supply, as it mainly produces vaccines for developing countries.
“Our vaccines are manufactured elsewhere – AstraZeneca in South Korea, and Europe for the rest, so it doesn’t affect our supply.
“What’s happening in India is very sad. Hopefully, the Indian government can make things better with the help of the international community,” he added.

Only nine percent of India’s 1.35 billion population have received a COVID-19 dose.

MoH reports slow uptake of COVID-19 vaccine among seniors

The minister was one of the hundreds of people who was inoculated with his second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at RIPAS Hospital on Monday, a month after receiving his first shot.
Since the start of the national vaccination programme on April 3, some 14,526 people have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 350 people have received the full schedule of two shots.

Health Minister YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham (R) receives his second dose of the COVID-19 jab on May 4, 2021. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/ The Scoop

The health minister acknowledged that the uptake of COVID-19 vaccination among seniors has been slow.
“The take-up is there but it’s not as much as we anticipated. However, we believe that once they see their friends have been vaccinated and are okay, then hopefully they would be more optimistic to take the vaccine.
He added, “Not many people are also keen to get vaccinated during the fasting month, so that might be one of the factors. This is a long process, this vaccination programme will take the whole year.”
The government aims to vaccinate 38,000 of senior citizens in Phase 1 of the national vaccination drive.

Senior citizens wait to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot at the Indoor Stadium on April 26, 2021. Photo: Rudolf Portillo/The Scoop

In a statement, MoH said clinical data has shown that unvaccinated seniors are more likely to experience severe infections and have a higher risk of death from COVID-19.

Asked whether MoH has set a timeframe to begin the second phase of the vaccine drive — which would see teachers, childcare workers and high-risk adults receive the shot — the minister said they will “see how it goes”.

“We will not wait to finish vaccinating the elderly if [the numbers] are [decreasing]. But we have to wait and see.”

This article was updated on May 4, 2021 at 7.53am.