BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Seniors aged 50 and above will be able to take COVID-19 booster jabs from November 26, the health minister announced on Thursday.

During his daily COVID press briefing, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar said the third vaccine dose will now be administered to the elderly following its earlier rollout for frontline workers.

He said seniors can proceed to any vaccination centres and get their booster shots without making an appointment.

“Although the third dose is not mandatory, the public are encouraged to get it to ensure maximum protection, especially those with chronic diseases,” he added.

The minister said there are concerns of waning COVID immunity after six months of vaccination.

“If we look at Western countries that were the first to receive the vaccines, unvaccinated individuals developed more severe symptoms.

“But they also found that fully jabbed people were infected after more than six months and their symptoms were quite bad, but not as [serious] as the unvaccinated,” he continued.

Source: Ministry of Health

US researchers found that the Moderna vaccine’s effectiveness against infection fell from 89 percent to 58 percent after six months. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine also reported a similar decline, dropping from 87 percent to 43 percent.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca jab declined from being 77 percent to 67 percent effective five or six months after the second dose, according to a UK study.

The vast majority (94.9 percent) of seniors aged 60 and over in Brunei have completed their two-dose regimen.

Brunei is rolling out third vaccine doses in stages, with frontliners the first group to receive booster shots last month, including healthcare workers, customs and immigration officers as well as law enforcement personnel.

Some 13,669 people, or 3.2 percent of Brunei’s total population, have taken booster jabs as of Wednesday, according to health ministry data.

A third vaccine dose will also be offered to younger adults aged 18 and above in due course.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham previously said individuals who took different vaccines as their first and second doses can get mRNA vaccines as booster shots.

Booster shots can be administered three to six months after the second dose, depending on the type of vaccine.

The country is on track to hit the 80 percent vaccination threshold by the end of this week as 78.9 percent of Brunei residents are double-vaxxed.

MoH logs 69 new cases

Brunei’s daily coronavirus case count stayed under 100 for the 20th straight day as the health ministry reported an additional 69 coronavirus cases on Thursday.

Two of the infections were imported from Jakarta and no new clusters were detected.

There are currently 461 active cases and the national COVID tally reached 14,840.

Asked whether any positive cases were detected from civil servants who took antigen rapid tests (ART), the health minister said none of the public sector workers tested positive during the rostered routine testing thus far.

“However, I was informed that positive cases were reported from the private sector [after taking antigen tests],” he said.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham added that self-testing with ART kits should be done “as frequent as possible” so that it becomes a norm for people to protect themselves and others.

All government staff are required to undergo ART testing every two weeks since the start of the COVID-19 transition phase on November 19.

Workers in the retail, food services, construction and manufacturing sectors were advised to perform antigen tests twice a week.