BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) will conduct a study on individuals’ antibody responses to COVID-19 vaccines, it said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

The university is collaborating with the health ministry and BruHealth app developer EVYD Technology to compare participants’ antibody responses to three vaccine types – AstraZeneca (viral vector), Moderna (mRNA), Sinopharm (inactivated virus).

The study would help policymakers determine future public health and disease control strategies, UBD said.

Associate Professor Dr Anne Cunningham, one of the immunologists leading the study, said the research team aims to take 3,000 blood samples from fully vaccinated individuals – 1,000 for each vaccine type.

The collection of blood samples is expected to start sometime in October, said Dr Cunningham, who is also the deputy dean of UBD’s PAPRSB Institute of Health Sciences.

She said UBD is also working with Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, which developed a virus neutralisation test (cPass) to detect and measure neutralising antibodies — the specific antibodies that are responsible for clearing patients’ viral infection.

The test, which can measure neutralising antibodies in an hour, is said to help in the study of herd immunity and predicting the protective immune response against COVID-19.

UBD has been designated as a satellite COVID-19 vaccination centre to facilitate the recruitment of participants for the study.

There are also plans to conduct further research on antibody responses after the administration of booster shots, Dr Cunningham told The Scoop.

Vaccination rate continues downward slide

Brunei’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout continued to slow down as 6,720 doses were administered on Tuesday compared to 8,015 a day earlier.

During his daily press briefing, Health Minister YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said nearly 2,000 vaccination slots were waiting to be filled for Thursday.

Health minister YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

The government is pushing to get at least 80 percent of the population inoculated by the end of 2021 before it considers lifting COVID-19 restrictions.

To date, 69.5 percent of Brunei residents have received at least one vaccine dose. About 45 percent of the population has completed their full vaccination regimen.

The minister said more than 5,000 seniors above the age of 60 have yet to take their COVID-19 jabs.

Some 88.7% of the elderly population has received at least one vaccine dose.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said data showed that positive COVID-19 cases aged 60 and above were five times more likely to develop severe illness and require artificial ventilation at the National Isolation Centre.

Those over 60 can walk in to any vaccination site to get inoculated.

Daily new cases dip to lowest level since Sep 19

Brunei’s daily new coronavirus cases fell to its lowest level since September 19, with the health ministry reporting 106 additional infections on Wednesday.

It is also the fourth consecutive day that the country has seen declining new infections.

Two of the new cases were imported from the Philippines and Morocco.

The COVID-19 death toll has risen to 39 after a 71-year-old woman passed away at the National Isolation Centre.

Three new household clusters were identified, while the Champion 7-Posh Elegance cluster was closed on Wednesday with 56 cases.

There are 2,315 active cases, including 41 warded in the intensive care unit.

Meanwhile, enforcement agencies issued on-the-spot fines to 35 people who broke the night curfew on Tuesday.

Some 50 people were caught flouting the 8pm-4am curfew on the first night.