BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The health minister is optimistic Brunei will reach the 70 percent vaccination target by the end of the year, so long as it receives its shipment of 300,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the final quarter of 2021.

Speaking during a press conference on Saturday, YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said getting timely delivery of vaccines is still an issue faced by many countries.

“The challenge for vaccines is access to it.”

“We have given almost 100,000 doses of Moderna, and we need the other 100,000 to prepare for the second dose.” 

As Brunei faces a new community outbreak, increasing vaccination coverage has taken on fresh urgency.

Dato Isham said the government is planning to acquire Novavax vaccines through the COVAX scheme, adding that the ministry does not plan to procure more Moderna.

“If we have all the Pfizer vaccines before the end of the year, I think the 70 percent target is still achievable,” he said.

As of August 7, 32.6 percent of the population (147,685 people) have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Some 40,592 people, or 8.9 percent of residents, have completed the full two dose regimen.

‘Buy supplies in fair amount’

As news of the emergence of community cases came to light, people began panic buying supplies such as face masks and hand sanitisers.

Second Minister of Finance and Economy YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said there was no reason to panic and behave irrationally.

“We have seen this phenomenon last year. Buy in fair amount so that everybody will get their fair share of what they need.”

“One suggestion is for retailers to [stop] people from buying in large volumes and for the public not to buy from resellers,” he added.

“Those buying in big quantities are trying to take advantage and make some money out of it. So if we can encourage retailers not to sell to people in big amount, everybody will get their fair share.” 

New cases could affect Brunei-Singapore green lane arrangement

The newly reported outbreak is also expected to affect Brunei’s green lane arrangement with Singapore. which was established last September to facilitate essential and official travel. 

“Of course, this depends on how other countries would assess the risk profile of the situation in Brunei. Just like how we assess the risk profiles of other countries,” Dato Amin said.

In May, Brunei halted green lane travel with Singapore after the city-state reported a spike in COVID-19 cases. The suspension was lifted two months later.