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A man receives his Covid-19 vaccine jab at the Vaccine Administration Centre in Sungai Nibong September 8, 2021. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
A man receives his Covid-19 vaccine jab at the Vaccine Administration Centre in Sungai Nibong September 8, 2021. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 ― Malaysia may have to change what it considers herd immunity for Covid-19 now due to the high reproductive number (R0) of new variants.

Deputy Health director-general Datuk Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim said that if previously herd immunity was considered achieved if 60 to 70 per cent of the total population had been vaccinated, a more realistic target now would be 90 per cent.

“Previously in the original strain from Wuhan, the reproductive number is only about 2.0 to 3.0. One case can infect three. But the current Delta variant is a totally different virus in a sense because the R0 now can reach about 9.0.

“So one case can infect nine other individuals. So the R0 has actually increased so much. So that actually has moved the goalpost so to speak,” he said at the National Recovery Summit 2021 here today.

Dr Hishamshah said that vaccinating 60 to 70 per cent of the country’s total population is no longer adequate.

“With the changing variant we need to get 90 per cent of the total population to be immunised or protected before we can say that the herd immunity has been achieved,” he said.

Dr Hishamshah said this is why the government has started to inoculate adolescents aged 12 to 15 with comorbidities, and all 16- to 17-year-olds.

He said that the number of Covid-19 cases within that age group is increasing.

Vaccination for 16 and 17-year-olds kicked off yesterday in Sarawak.

As of yesterday, the Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Special Committee (JKJAV) reported that 64.1 per cent of Malaysia’s total population has received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine while 50.5 per cent is fully vaccinated.

Klang Valley remains the highest fully vaccinated population at 72 per cent, followed by Labuan with 65.8 per cent and Sarawak at 63.7 per cent.

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