In addition to providing more information about the types of vaccines individuals can take as boosters, KKM also shared where these shots are available, and what to do if you miss your appointment date.
On Tuesday (11 January 2022), Malaysia's Ministry of Health (Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia, or KKM) answered a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about COVID-19 booster shots.
Its answers were released in Bahasa Melayu on its Facebook page. Read on for the English version:
Q1 What is a COVID-19 booster?
It is an additional vaccine dosage given to an individual who has completed two COVID-19 vaccines (or the specific fully-vaccinated regimen applicable to the vaccine they've taken - see Q6 below for each vaccine's regimen).
Q2 What is the purpose of a COVID-19 booster?
Individuals who are fully vaccinated are protected from COVID-19 especially from severe symptoms, and, in unfortunate cases, deaths. However, over a period of time, such protection diminishes. Thus, a booster is given to re-enhance the protection.
Q3 Who should get a COVID-19 booster?
A booster will be given to adults aged 18 years and above with priority to vulnerable and high-risk groups for COVID-19 infection after complete vaccination such as:
- Frontline personnel (health and non-health personnel);
- Residents and staff in long-term health care centres, such as care centres for the elderly and so on;
- Individuals with comorbidities;
- Pregnant women, and
- Those who need to go abroad.
Priority appointments are given according to the age (an age-step-down approach) that has reached the required booster period.
Q4 Is it mandatory to take a COVID-19 booster?
Although a booster is not mandatory, it is highly recommended to take a booster to ensure optimal protection against COVID-19 infection especially from severe symptoms, and, in unfortunate cases, deaths.
Q5 Does the COVID-19 booster protect me from new variants?
A booster provides protection against all existing COVID-19 variants.
Q6 What kind of vaccine will be given as a COVID-19 booster, and when will it be time to get a booster shot?
Currently, the Drug Control Authority (DCA) has approved several types of vaccines in Malaysia. The duration of reception of a booster varies based on the type of complete vaccine or the primary dose that has been accepted. It is as follows:
- Individuals who are vaccinated with Comirnaty (Pfizer), are required to get a booster (Comirnaty (Pfizer) or AstraZeneca), three months after their second dose.
- Individuals who are vaccinated with AstraZeneca, are required to get a booster (Comirnaty (Pfizer) or AstraZeneca), three months after their second dose.
- Individuals who are vaccinated with Coronavac (Sinovac), are required to get a booster (Comirnaty (Pfizer), AstraZeneca, or Coronavac (Sinovac)), three months after their second dose.
- Individuals who are vaccinated with Covilo (Sinopharm), are required to get a booster (Comirnaty (Pfizer) or AstraZeneca), three months after their second dose.
- Individuals who are vaccinated with Spikevax (Moderna), are required to get a booster (Comirnaty (Pfizer) or AstraZeneca), three months after their second dose.
- Individuals who are vaccinated with Sputnik V, are required to get a booster (Comirnaty (Pfizer) or AstraZeneca), three months after their second dose.
- Individuals who are vaccinated with Convidecia (CanSino), are required to get a booster (Comirnaty (Pfizer) or AstraZeneca), three months after their first dose.
- Individuals who are vaccinated with Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), are required to get a booster (Comirnaty (Pfizer) or AstraZeneca), two months after their first dose.
Q7 How long is the period of protection provided by the COVID-19 booster?
The duration of protection afforded by the booster cannot be determined at present because the evidence and information is still insufficient.
Q8 What is the frequency of receiving the COVID-19 booster?
Based on the latest information, one dose of booster is sufficient.
Q9 If I have side effects following my second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, can I still take a COVID-19 booster?
Yes, you can still take a booster. However, you should seek medical advice first so that the actual assessment can be made, as well as the place of giving the booster can be determined as you may need close observation while receiving the shot.
Q10 Why does Malaysia not follow the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in giving the COVID-19 booster?
The WHO does not oppose the administration of boosters. The WHO prioritises fair access to vaccines for all populations around the world and recommends priority be given to high-risk groups, with the motto: "No one is safe until everyone is safe".
Q11 How can I register for a COVID-19 booster?
You do not need to register to get a booster. MySejahtera application will share an appointment date for you to go to the health facility involved. However, if it is time to receive the booster (i.e. Q6), and there is an urgent need (i.e. Q3) you can contact the listed health facilities on the KKM website, or on the ProtectHealth website to be registered in the list waiting (backup list) and get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Q12 Do I have to pay for a COVID-19 booster?
Currently, booster doses are under the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK). Thus, it's free. However, there are private health facilities that charge COVID-19 boosters. It is advisable to obtain more information about it before obtaining a booster from such private health facilities.
Q13 Where can I get a COVID-19 booster?
Q14 Can I walk in to receive a COVID-19 booster in any health facility?
Not for now. You will receive an appointment date through the MySejahtera application with information from a health facility that will give you the booster.
Q15 What if I miss the appointment date?
If you miss an appointment date, you can contact a private health facility listed on ProtectHealth to get a new appointment date.
Q16 What is required before I get a COVID-19 booster?
- Get enough sleep;
- Take breakfast/lunch before going to the Vaccination Center (PPV);
- Have a healthy body, and no symptoms;
- Wear appropriate and normal clothing;
- Wear a face mask;
- Bring an identity card or identity document;
- Bring a vaccination card as proof you have received the full dose in the absence of MySejahtera app, and
- You must not be in quarantine.
Q17 What should I do after receiving a COVID-19 booster?
- Be in the designated observation space for at least 15 minutes. Inform health workers or seek immediate treatment if you experience signs of severe side effects after receiving the booster;
- Follow COVID-19 prevention measures;
- Keep the vaccination card given by the health worker, and
- Avoid strenuous activities for a week.
Q18 What are the side effects of a COVID-19 booster?
The side effects of a booster are similar to the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, which include fever, fatigue, and muscle pain. Most side effects are mild, and can be cured on their own or reduced by taking medications such as paracetamol. However, there are a handful of individuals who get more severe side effects such as pericarditis.
Please refer to the nearest health facility immediately if side effects are prolonged or serious. Side effects experienced should be reported through the MySejahtera app.
Q19 Should I receive a COVID-19 booster that is the same as, or different from my vaccine?
Based on recent studies, individuals can receive boosters that are either the same, or different from their vaccine.
Q20 Is there a risk if I receive a COVID-19 booster that is different from my vaccine?
No risks were reported following the receiving of boosters, based on reports from the studies conducted.
Q21 Is the COVID-19 booster safe for a woman who wants to be pregnant; is pregnant, or is breastfeeding?
Yes, boosters are safe for those who are planning to become pregnant and breastfeeding. and there is no set time period to take them. However, those who are pregnant are recommended to take a COVID-19 booster (Pfizer) at 12 weeks and above.
Q22 If I want to get a different type of vaccine than those offered as COVID-19 boosters due to the side effects I've experienced before, what should I do?
Please inform the health worker at the Vaccination Center (PPV) if you have any side effects while receiving the COVID-19 vaccine before. The health worker will assess your health status, and will make an assessment to determine if you are eligible or not to receive the booster.
Image / Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia