PETALING JAYA: The procurement of the new Bivalent Covid-19 vaccines which are set to replace the previous booster doses is a good move to keep vaccines ready for use, say health experts.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar thinks any type of vaccine would not change the current perception and acceptability of the Malaysian public.

“I don’t think there will be much change. Most people are assumed to have enough natural immunity against Covid-19, except for vulnerable people like the immunocompromised and elderly with chronic conditions.

“We are out of the epidemic. It has become one of the diseases under the Health Ministry (MOH) surveillance system like flu, dengue and other infections.

“The cases will be managed with the existing standard operating procedures,” he said in an interview.

The then Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had said the Bivalent from Pfizer was set to arrive this month to replace the existing orders of the old vaccines.

However, he advised people to take any current vaccines instead of waiting because they are also effective against the Omicron variant.

As at the end of October, only 519,839 Malaysians had taken their second booster shot. The take-up for the second has been low.

Zainal Ariffin said that based on the low take-up of the second booster, he believes that Malaysians are still not in favour of the booster dose either because they assume Covid-19 infection has become less serious or they just do not want to get the booster.

He said Malaysians will now have to live with Covid-19 and be mindful of it.

“The MOH will have to keep the vaccine in stock while continuing to promote the booster for the vulnerable groups,” he said.

Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming, of Universiti Malaya’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine said the Bivalent vaccine will be the better option to have than the previous ones.

She said it is best to keep vaccines in stock and available for the people.

“Yes, we have to buy and keep, especially for the high-risk groups who need boosters after their previous doses wane over time.

“I feel people should go for a booster even if they were infected before. Infection does provide some protection, but short term,” she said, adding that Covid-19 vaccine could become an annual shot similar to the flu jab.

Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah said that most people are not likely to take up more vaccines unless they are forced to.

“I also don’t think there will be much change because even with the first and second booster, the percentage is still lower.

“It’s still good to have it in our stockpile, then people cannot say we don’t have it. But it is important to ensure people take the second dose,” he said, adding that the symptoms from influenza, upper respiratory tract infection and Covid-19 are almost the same.