KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin received the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday (Feb 24), kicking off the national COVID-19 immunisation programme.
Next in line to be vaccinated at the health office in Putrajaya were Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah and other medical frontliners.
They have to undergo a 30-minute observation period following their jabs to watch for potential negative reactions.
Speaking after the observation period, Mr Muhyiddin expressed his confidence in the vaccine, noting that he hardly felt any pain.
"I therefore urge all Malaysian citizens and those living in Malaysia, whom we’ve decided will be vaccinated for free, to come forward and register in MySejahtera (app), so that your turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can be set," Mr Muhyiddin said.
The prime minister's second jab has been scheduled for Mar 17.
The national immunisation programme was brought forward from Friday, following the delivery of 312,390 doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine last Sunday.
Another 182,250 doses of the vaccine were due to arrive in Malaysia on Wednesday, said Coordinating Minister for National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme Khairy Jamaluddin earlier.
As of Tuesday, Malaysia registered a total of 288,229 COVID-19 cases and 1,076 deaths.
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Malaysia's COVID-19 immunisation programme is divided into three phrases, beginning with medical and non-medical frontliners from February to April.
The second phase, which runs from April until August, will cover senior citizens aged over 65 years old and other high-risk groups while the final phase, from May until February next year, is targeted at the general adult population aged 18 and above.
Registration for COVID-19 vaccination is set to commence on Mar 1, and will remain open until 80 per cent of its 32 million population have been vaccinated under the government’s herd immunity target.
The vaccines will be given free to both Malaysians and foreigners residing in the country.
In a media statement on Feb 11, the COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Committee stressed that Malaysians will be prioritised to receive the vaccination doses but maintained that the decision to include foreigners is key to the success of the programme.
In all, Malaysia has secured 66.7 million vaccine doses as of February 2021.
In addition to Pfizer-BioNTech, it is also acquiring vaccines from Britain’s AstraZeneca, Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, and China’s Sinovac Biotech and CanSino Biologics.
The Sinovac vaccines are expected to arrive by the end of the month, and the AstraZeneca vaccines in March.
Out of the five, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has received regulatory approval for use in Malaysia so far.