Covid-19: Malaysia still more than a year away from ‘population immunity’, says Deutsche Bank economist

01-May-2021 Intellasia | Malaymail | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Malaysia is among several countries that are expected to still be more than a year away from the target of achieving “population immunity” — having 70 per cent of its population having immunity — against Covid-19, Deutsche Bank’s Asia chief economist Michael Spencer has said.

In a research note released yesterday, Spencer provided estimates of when such population immunity would likely happen in different countries, based on present data and estimates on their respective rates of Covid-19 vaccination.

He noted that the time to achieve population immunity against Covid-19 varies greatly even among advanced countries, saying that Canada, US, UK and Germany may be less than three months away while noting that Japan and New Zealand have barely begun down the path to immunity.

As for the emerging economies in Asia, Spencer noted that the time to immunity also varies, with China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea likely to achieve this before the end of 2021, while saying that other countries will take much longer.

While noting that the time taken to reach population immunity can be shortened by ramping up efforts for Covid-19 vaccination such as in South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, Spencer said that poorer countries still lag when compared to the richer countries. “But the time to immunity is still much longer in the poorer economies than the advanced economies. India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam are today more than a year away from population immunity.

“And vaccinations are actually falling in India and Malaysia and are not rising as they should be in Indonesia and the Philippines,” the Deutsche Bank chief economist and head of research for Asia Pacific said in the summary of his research note.

Noting the “enormous logistical challenge” to vaccinate most of the population and to perhaps repeat it each year, Spencer however stressed the importance of vaccination — instead of waiting to treat infections — for economies.

“It may appear attractive to some to treat, rather than prevent, infections. But inability to achieve population immunity may come at the cost of restraining growth in these economies for many years,” he cautioned.

In the same research note, Spencer explained how the estimates were arrived at, including defining “population immunity” as where 70 per cent of the population had either acquired immunity naturally after recovery from Covid-19 infection or via vaccination.

Spencer also said that the analysis included those who have received at least one dose of any Covid-19 vaccine in the “vaccinated” population.

The economist also said it was “no surprise” that the levels of protection or levels of percentage of population that have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in emerging countries were lower than the advanced countries, as the advanced countries had an earlier start.

“While those advanced economies began vaccinating people in late December or early January and China also began vaccinating people last year, Indonesia, Singapore and Sri Lanka began in late January; Hong Kong, India and South Korea in February; and Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam only in March,” he said. (The first Covid-19 vaccination was administered on February 24 on prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, which kickstarted Malaysia’s Covid-19 immunisation programme).

Among other things, Spencer had noted that vaccination efforts in many countries were slower to begin than had been expected and were often beyond the control of governments for many reasons, such as vaccines supplies from suppliers.

“Vaccine manufacturers may have overpromised, which meant deliveries of vaccines in some countries fell short of what governments thought they had contracted.

“The logistics of vaccinating so many people so quickly are very complicated, requiring new dedicated facilities to be set up in most places.

“To our knowledge, no government has made it mandatory for people to be vaccinated and acceptance of vaccines differs across countries, over time and between vaccines on offer.

“Willingness to get vaccinated is perhaps the greatest obstacle to population immunity and is not something that can be directly influenced by governments,” he noted.

Snapshot of Malaysia’s current vaccination progress

Based on the latest information released by the Malaysia government’s Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV), the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) figures show that over 1.4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in Malaysia as of April 28, comprising of 871,219 persons who have received their first doses and 537,996 persons who have received their second doses.

Also as of April 28, a total of 9,365,711 or 9.3 million individuals in Malaysia have registered to receive Covid-19 vaccination. This represents 38.6 per cent of the Malaysian population aged 18 and above.

Under Malaysia’s National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, the three phases of Covid-19 immunisation that were initially outlined are — targeted vaccination of 500,000 frontliners (February to April 2021), 9.4 million frontliners and high-risk groups such as senior citizens or those with chronic illnesses and persons with disabilities (April to August 2021), 13.7 million or more adults including foreigners and Malaysians (May 2021 to February 2022).

The Deutsche Bank report comes just shortly after health news portal CodeBlue’s April 21 report of the slowing pace of new registrations in Malaysia for Covid-19 vaccination in recent weeks, and also after Malaysia started its second phase of its national Covid-19 immunisation programme on April 19.

Earlier this month, minister Khairy Jamaluddin stressed that Malaysia is following its schedule for Covid-19 vaccination, and that its vaccination rate only trails behind Singapore, Indonesia and Cambodia in the Asean region and is ahead of other Asean nations.

Khairy had also earlier this month pointed out that the demand for Covid-19 vaccination in Malaysia is currently more than the supply of vaccines available, and that more vaccine supplies are expected to be delivered in June and that there will be enough supplies coming in to ensure Malaysia vaccinates 80 per cent of the population before the end of 2021.

In response to opposition MPs Ong Kian Ming and Dr Kelvin Yii on whether there is enough manpower to ramp up vaccination doses administered from 40,000 daily to 160,000 daily, the CITF had in an April 17 statement said the biggest challenge in increasing the pace of daily vaccinations is the supply of vaccines, with more vaccines expected to be received from June onwards.

CITF also said that by then, it would have mobilised more personnel to carry out vaccinations under the third phase of the national Covid-19 immunisation programme, and that this would help achieve the vaccination target of 160,000 doses per day in the third phase.


Category: Malaysia

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