KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — It is too early to say whether COVID-19 vaccination will serve as the basis for an ‘immunity passport’ before one can start moving around freely, said Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
He said the government still needs to look closely into outcome of vaccines’ efficacy and safety before it can make any decision on the matter.
“Vaccination delivers hope to everyone of us but it’s too early for the government to make any decision on whether vaccination will be our ‘immunity passport’ to travel, around the world for example.
“Let us get the vaccination going and then get it evaluated from time to time,” he said in his pre-recorded presentation for the “Forward Malaysia: Charting New Paths to the Next Normal” webinar by Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia that was held via the Zoom application today.
He said this in replying to a question on the immunity passport from Consultant Physician of Acute Medicine and Malaysian Advanced Acute Internal Medicine and Ultrasound Society president Datuk Seri Dr Paras Doshi, who was one of the speakers.
Noor Hisham said that for a start, the government might look at into the possibility of easing COVID-19 restrictions, for example the quarantine requirement, only if the vaccination programme really did well.
However, he said that at the same time, the government needs to be sure whether a booster is needed and whether the immune response will continue after one or two years, once vaccinated.
“We need to look at the data… at least eight months or one year to a maximum of two years to show efficacy as well as the safety of vaccine.
“I think there are a lot of questions unanswered at the moment but we hope for the best… but most importantly in this period of time, you still need to comply with all the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) although you have been vaccinated,” he added.
He added if the internal (vaccine) and external (obeying SOPs) protections go hand-in-hand, the Health Ministry might actually look into the immunity passport again, by discussing with its counterparts as well as with the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“On whether we can continue to return back to our normal life before the pandemic, it is something that we hope we can but until we have looked into the success of the vaccination programme, whether it will give us the immunity passport, it leaves to be seen.
“We need time for us to adapt into this new environment… we are living in certainly a very tough and challenging time, but more importantly is that for us to adapt to this new environment that we have, so until then we cannot return back to our normal life,” he said.