BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The health ministry on Monday authorised the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for teenagers aged 12 to 17 to help reach its 80 percent vaccination goal by the end of this year.

During the COVID-19 press briefing, the health minister said the Pfizer vaccine was approved for adolescents after analysing research findings on its safety and efficacy.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar added that his ministry is making preparations with the education and religious affairs ministries to roll out the vaccines for teenagers.

The government procured 300,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected to arrive later this year.

“We are hoping that the vaccines will arrive as soon as possible because we want to start inoculating teenagers to increase the vaccination coverage. Otherwise, it’ll be difficult for us to achieve the 80 percent [target],” the minister added.

There are over 37,000 people in the 12-17 age group, accounting for 8.8 percent of Brunei’s population, according to latest data from the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics.

As of Sunday, 75.5 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose and over 51 percent completed the full vaccination regimen.

Brunei is one of several countries in Asia that has expanded its COVID-19 inoculation programme to include adolescents as it seeks to vaccinate pupils so that schools can reopen.

Schools have been shut since the government sent the country into a partial lockdown 10 weeks ago.

US drugmaker Pfizer said clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine showed 100 percent efficacy in preventing infection among teens aged 12-15.

There were reports of children and teenagers developing heart inflammation, or myocarditis after taking the Pfizer jab in other countries but the health minister previously said the risk of severe side effects is low.

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

Responding to a question on administration of booster shots, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said adults who received their second dose of Sinopharm vaccine after more than three months would be offered mRNA booster jabs.

Those who were administered AstraZeneca and Moderna jabs would have to wait at least six months after their second dose to take their booster shot.

The minister last week said frontline workers started receiving their third vaccine dose as they were at high risk of developing COVID-19 infection.

Frontliners were given either Sinopharm or AstraZeneca jabs during the first phase of Brunei’s vaccination drive in April.

Death toll climbs to 50; 187 new cases detected

Three coronavirus patients died overnight, but only one was classified as a COVID-linked death.

A 68-year-old man became Brunei’s 50th fatality from the virus, while the other two victims – a 67-year-old man and 50-year-old woman – had pre-existing health conditions.

The health ministry confirmed 187 new coronavirus cases on Monday, raising the overall tally to 11,047.

One new household cluster was identified in the past 24 hours. For the first time in 12 days, no new clusters have been linked to migrant worker dormitories.

The sultanate has been seeing a surge in cases attributed to foreign workers’ accommodation in the past fortnight.

Of the 3,144 cases detected in the last two weeks, 51 percent were found in workers’ dorms.

Among the 2,728 active cases on Monday, 35 were in the intensive care unit.