BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – COVID-19 vaccines have been highly effective in preventing most coronavirus cases in Brunei despite breakthrough infections, according to the latest health ministry data.
Data showed that one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine reduced the risk of infection by 75.8 percent. This increased to 82.9 percent with two doses.
While the health ministry did not give a breakdown on the effectiveness of each vaccine type, Brunei has used Sinopharm, AstraZeneca and Moderna since its vaccination rollout began in April.
Between August 6 and September 12, a total of 3,824 coronavirus cases have been reported — the vast majority have been community transmission with just 36 imported cases.
Among positive cases in the second wave, a total of 76 percent were unvaccinated, while 16 percent were partially vaccinated with one dose, and 8.4 percent were double-jabbed.
About 28 percent of cases in the second wave were children and adolescents aged 19 years and below.
The health ministry is planning to offer COVID-19 vaccines to adolescents as part of its strategy to improve vaccination coverage.
First dose vaccinations to resume on Thursday
The government will restart first dose vaccinations on Thursday after a two-week hiatus that was attributed to a vaccine shortage.
So far, 52 percent of residents have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, with 33 percent fully vaccinated after completing their two-shot regimen.
In a press briefing, the health minister said first priority would be given to people who had their previous appointments cancelled before slots are opened to new bookings.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said individuals may be required to proceed to another designated vaccination site and not the one they previously scheduled due to limited slots.
The restart of first dose vaccinations comes three days after China donated 100,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine to Brunei.
Responding to a question on the efficacy of China’s state-owned Sinopharm vaccine, the minister said every vaccine is “valuable”.
“Any vaccine is better than no vaccine. Whatever vaccine that has been approved by the government is effective in controlling the spread of the virus.”
Average number of secondary infections drops
The average number of secondary infections has shrunk in the second wave, health ministry data indicated.
The effective reproduction number (Rt) — which measures how transmissible a disease is at a given time — suggests that Brunei’s second wave of infections is holding steady and not showing a significant increase, the minister said.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said the Rt value fell to about one, which means someone with COVID-19 case will go on to infect, on average, one other person.
During the beginning of the current outbreak, Brunei recorded a basic reproduction number (R-naught) of 5, indicating that one positive case spreads the virus to five other people.
An outbreak is said to be brought under control when the R-naught is less than 1.
The minister further said the doubling time — the time it takes for COVID-19 cases to increase two-fold — is now longer.
It currently takes 20 days for the number of coronavirus infections to double, compared to three to four days during the onset of the second wave.
Death toll reaches 20
The minister Wednesday confirmed that two COVID-19 patients died after developing lung infections, raising Brunei’s death toll to 20.
The latest fatalities were a 41-year-old woman and 77-year-old man.
A total of 135 additional COVID-19 infections were reported on Wednesday, with 97 of the cases unlinked so far.
Six new household clusters were identified and linked to individual cases who contracted the virus from an unknown source. There are a total of 82 existing clusters.
Some 132 people were discharged overnight, bringing the number of active cases to 1,549.
Nine people are critically ill and another 33 patients require intensive care.