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COVID Monthly Report - May

Period : May 2020 – May 2021

Date : 29th May 2021

Researcher : Esther Low


Global total new COVID cases by month

May saw a slight drop in total COVID cases globally compared to April as countries ramped up their vaccination progress while other countries such as India, Malaysia or Singapore went back into lockdown mode in April and May to contain their second or third waves.


Number of total new COVID cases by month for Malaysia

Although the number of new COVID cases stabilized in March and the MCO 2.0 was lifted briefly, Malaysia begins experiencing another rise in COVID infections in mid-April and continue to set new records in highest cases in May (with the highest recorded cases being 9,020 on 29th May). This has brought the nation’s cumulative confirmed cases to 572,357. Malaysia has declared a stricter version of a lockdown compared to MCO 3.0, the FMCO will begin on 1st June to 28th June.


Total new COVID deaths by month for Malaysia

May has been a deadly month for Malaysia recording a total of 1,290 deaths in a single month. As the number of infected cases has increased tremendously, the number of total COVID deaths for the month of May has also increased in tandem. As of end May, this has brought the total number of COVID related deaths to 2,796 in which almost half the number of deaths occurred in May.


Total vaccines administered by month globally

It has been a year and a half since the COVID-19 outbreak and vaccines seems to be the only hope in bringing the long COVID to an end. Since the US FDA issued is first emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine in December, many more vaccines such as AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson& Johnson, Sinovac and Sputnik has been rolled out in numerous countries as they race to achieve herd immunity before stronger variants emerge. As of May, a total of 2.297 billion shots were administered.


Total vaccines administered in May for Malaysia

Meanwhile the vaccine rollout in Malaysia has been rather slow in March and April, focusing on vaccinating its frontliners. The country begun ramping up vaccination efforts in May due to the spike in total cases, this has brought the total vaccinations administered to 2.7million shots. The government has also announced a voluntary opt-in for the AstraZeneca vaccine due to blood clot scares. However, due to massive welcoming responses from the public towards the AstraZeneca vaccine, the government has since announced that the AstraZeneca vaccine will no longer be a voluntary opt-in and will be included in the vaccination drive.


Total number of people fully vaccinated for Malaysia

As of 31st May the total number of people fully vaccinated is merely 1.09 million, a far stretch from Malaysia’s target in achieving 80% of its population fully vaccinated (26 million people). Malaysia is now on Phase 2 of their vaccination rollout plan which is to vaccinate the elderly and those at high-risk groups.


Malaysia vaccination rollout projection


With the goal to achieve 80% immunization of its population, Malaysia will have to administer at least 51 million doses. Although the government has yet to announce any plans for vaccinating those below 18 years old - which amounts to roughly 30% of the population – the Malaysian government must ramp up its vaccination progress soon.


The vaccination efforts largely rely on two factors, the ability of the government to rollout vaccinations as per plan and the availability of the vaccines in the country.


Vaccination capability

A slower vaccination rollout would mean a longer timeline to return to normalcy. This would bring about several implications to the country in terms of the health sector, safety of the population, and the economics of the country. Knowing this, the Malaysian government has announced 5 new mega vaccination centers in Klang Valley and 12 more private hospitals as vaccination centers in Negeri Sembilan, Sarawak and Selangor. Meanwhile, the Selangor government has also announced plans to allow companies to buy COVID-19 vaccines for their staffs as part of the vaccination drive.


The vaccination rollout was planned in three stages where the 1st phase was to prioritize immunization of the country’s frontliners. This was completed by end April 2021 where roughly 500,000 Malaysians were fully vaccinated.


In comparison to vaccination drives in neighboring countries such as Indonesia - which rolled out approximately 4-5 million shots for the month of April and May – Malaysia is lagging greatly. Phase 2 involving immunization of the elderly and high-risk groups averaged about 20,000 shots administered per day. This merely resulted in an additional 500,000 people fully vaccinated by month end. However, this has changed as there are now more mega vaccination centers as well as manpower to facilitate vaccination efforts, the doses administered has begun to pick up and it is likely we can expect to see an average of about 150,000-200,000 shots a day in June, and efforts are underway to meet the goal of 400,000 shots per day in August.


Besides the infrastructure, the introduction of the CanSino vaccine, a single dose vaccine, will quickly speed up the program. It is yet unclear when this vaccine will become available.


Vaccine availability

The government has changed its initial herd immunity target of February 2022, to end of this year. This required a revision of the initial vaccine dosage supply agreements.


In the absence of an overview issued by the government showing the planned delivery schedule for each vaccine, and the real deliveries, below is an overview and projection based on the various statements and press releases.


Vaccine delivery schedule planning

Doses requirement and availability by month

It shows sufficient dosages available for the 400,000 doses per day the Prime Minister has set as a target for August.


So far the delivery schedule by supplier has not been met, but by having 5 suppliers the Malaysian government has reduced the risk of not meeting the total requirement. Nevertheless, availability is a risk to take into account, and it could still provide a problem meeting the August target.


Conclusion

The Malaysian government is aware of the implications of a long battle against COVID especially when more new variants are emerging. By ramping up the country’s vaccination efforts it reduces the economic cost of restricted movements and the risk of emergence of new variants.


With the existing delivery uncertainties, the increased capabilities, and single dose vaccinations, the best prediction is an 80% immunization by October/November for 18 and above, and November/January 2022 for 80% of the entire population.




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