BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The experiences of other countries provide clear evidence that unvaccinated people are more likely to suffer from severe COVID-19 symptoms, the health minister said on Tuesday.

Drawing lessons from the ways other countries handle the pandemic, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said most of the patients who were hospitalised for COVID did not get jabbed.

“It has been proven that if you don’t get vaccinated, the risk of [developing serious COVID] symptoms is higher,” he said.

The minister was responding to a reporter’s question on concerns that Brunei may battle a surge in coronavirus cases among the unvaccinated, as seen in countries across Europe.

Grappling with record-high coronavirus infections, many European countries are taking a tougher stance against individuals who refuse the COVID jab.

Austria became the first country in Europe to mandate COVID vaccination, while Germany barred unvaccinated individuals from accessing some public venues.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said Brunei’s vaccination coverage is increasing compared to other countries where many people have yet to get inoculated.

To date, 77.5 percent of the population has completed the two-dose regimen – one of the highest vaccination rates in Southeast Asia.

Brunei has not made vaccination mandatory for all residents, but the government requires frontline workers and teachers to get the vaccine.

According to a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die from COVID than those who are fully jabbed.

Brunei reported 50 COVID-related deaths from August to October 2021 – 42 were unvaccinated and while eight were partially vaccinated with one dose, according to data from the health ministry.

Brunei has not seen any COVID fatalities in fully vaccinated persons.

The health ministry confirmed 71 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, pushing the overall tally to 14,701.

Four new clusters were detected overnight, including the worker dormitories of LKH Sdn Bhd and Mah Mega.