KUALA LUMPUR: All teachers and support staff will receive at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine before face-to-face schooling sessions begin, in stages, scheduled to commence on Sept 1.

National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) Coordinating Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, said that the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) and the Education Ministry (MOE) are identifying the number of teachers and related support staff, to schedule their first vaccination appointments.

As of yesterday, he said that a total of 303,682, or 73.5%, of teachers nationwide have received one vaccination shot.

“A total of 45,197 support staff (67%) and 33,633 contract support services employees (38%) (at government schools) have received at least one vaccination shot, while for private schools, 12,894 teachers (66.4%) have received at least one vaccination shot.

“The Education Minister and I give our assurance that all education staff will be vaccinated before school starts,” he said when winding up the session on questions from MPs at the Dewan Rakyat today.

Khairy today presented an explanation of PICK’s implementation, and 23 MPs raised questions and suggestions touching on vaccine issues for the education sector and delays in vaccine procurement, as well as logistical and distribution problems.

Dr Maszlee Malik (Independent-Simpang Renggam) raised the issue of vaccinations for the education sector, and also suggested that all employees of public and private institutions of higher learning should be vaccinated.

In other developments, Khairy announced that the results of the third phase of clinical trials for the vaccine developed by the Institute of Medical Biology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (IMBCAMS), which has been ongoing since January, may be known by the end of this year.

“There are companies that have begun the process of registering this vaccine with the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), and when the NPRA is satisfied with the dossier or information contained in the application, then the approval will be issued.

“I have also been informed that this vaccine has received Emergency Use Authorisation in China...so we might approve this vaccine soon,” he said when answering a question raised by Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail (PH-Kulim Bandar Baharu).

Also, Khairy once again said that the issue regarding the ceiling price for the Covid-19 vaccine for the private market will be determined at the Special Committee for Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) meeting next week.

“This matter has been informed to the Public Accounts Committee, and the committee has recommended it,” he said, adding that negotiations with vaccine manufacturers to finalise the procurement of vaccines for 2022 is underway.

Answering Dr Kelvin Yii’s (DAP-Bandar Kuching) question about antibody tests to evaluate immunity after vaccination, Khairy said that for now, Malaysia does not recommend the tests, in line with the guidelines of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

He said that Malaysia was developing a policy for the antibody test and has allocated RM15 million for an antibody immune surveillance programme under the Health Ministry’s Institute of Medical Research.

“This study is important to see the levels of antibodies and neutralising antibodies in vaccine recipients in Malaysia.

“This is medical research which is ongoing, as far as antibody testing for laypeople is concerned...we still do not have the guidelines, and I hope it can be done,” he said.

Khairy also agreed with Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad’s (PH-Kuala Selangor) suggestion that the government be forward-thinking about multi-variant, second-generation Covid-19 vaccine research in preparation for new variants or zoonotic diseases.

Regarding suggestions to extend the interval between the first and second Pfizer doses, Khairy said that initially the government had already agreed, but due to the spread of the Delta variant, the span of three weeks has been maintained.

“We find that the effectiveness of a single Pfizer dose against the Delta variant is only 30%; that is why we maintained the current interval,” he said.

The Dewan Rakyat special sitting will resume tomorrow, with a presentation by Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz regarding economic aid packages. — Bernama