BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The health minister has urged expectant mothers to consult with doctors before receiving their third COVID-19 vaccine dose as every pregnancy is different.

Responding to a question on the safety of booster doses among pregnant women, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said mothers-to-be should discuss with doctors on the suitability of when to take their top-up vaccine.

Each individual may be different and the condition of their pregnancy should be monitored too.

“Pregnant mothers shouldn’t go to [vaccination centres] for walk-ins, they should go to Maternal and Child Health clinics [first] for confirmation,” he said during the COVID-19 press briefing on Saturday.

He added that breastfeeding mothers can take their booster jabs at least three months after the second dose.

Pregnant women were found to be at an increased risk of developing severe disease after contracting COVID, with health experts saying it is safe for them to get a third vaccine dose.

Brunei is accelerating the rollout of booster shots to prepare for the expected arrival of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, reducing the waiting time for third doses from five to three months.

Studies have suggested that vaccine efficacy against Omicron has declined. This means that there is a higher chance of fully vaccinated people getting infected with the new strain.

Amid concerns of Omicron resistant to vaccines, researchers said a booster dose could offer about 85 percent protection against severe illness.

The health ministry has administered third vaccine doses to 25,561 people or 5.9 percent of the population so far, including 1,309 on Friday when the COVID booster campaign for all adults began.

The sultanate has one of the world’s highest double-dose vaccination rates, with 91.6 percent of the population fully jabbed against the coronavirus.