Safety is paramount, says KJ after European regulator flags blood-clotting linked to AstraZeneca vaccine

Malaysia will deliberate the use of AstraZeneca, barely 48 hours after Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said the government will go ahead with the Covid-19 vaccine brand.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee (JKJAVMY) would note the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) announcement that there is a possible link between the vaccine and blood-clotting.

EMA executive director Emer Cooke said yesterday unusual blood-clotting with low blood platelets would be added as a “very rare” side effect to the vaccine’s product information.

Khairy tweeted: “We take note of EMA’s announcement on the AstraZeneca vaccine. @JKJAVMY will deliberate on the matter and decide if we will use AZ in our portfolio of vaccines. Safety is paramount.”

On Tuesday, Dr Adham said the use of AstraZeneca would continue as “clinical data points to more benefits rather than harms”. He said this was decided at the special committee’s meeting the same day.

Rare cases of blood-clotting mainly occurred in women under 60 two weeks after they received their shots. The EMA has not identified specific risk factors that contributed to it.

EMA also flagged other possible side effects, including shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling in the leg, persistent abdominal pain, neurological symptoms, blurred vision, and skin-bruising beyond the site of the injection. The agency said it was of “great importance” that healthcare professionals and those receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine are aware of the risks and watch for possible symptoms in the first two weeks of the jab.

Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said those aged under 30 who don’t have underlying health conditions should be given a different vaccine, if possible.

AstraZeneca, in a statement later yesterday, said the overall review affirmed the vaccine offers “a high level of protection against all severities of Covid-19 and that these benefits continue to outweigh the risks.”

“AstraZeneca has been actively collaborating with the regulators to implement these changes to the product information and is already working to understand the individual cases, epidemiology and possible mechanisms that could explain these extremely rare events,” the company said.

Philippines today announced the suspension of AstraZeneca for people below 60 to investigate the blood-clotting reports overseas.

On April 5, Khairy said 7,906,913 people have registered for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme. Today, Dr Adham revealed 346,270 people had received both doses of the vaccine. Phase Two of the programme, which begins on April 19, will involve 9.4 million senior citizens aged 60 and above as well as those with morbidities and disabilities.

Phase Three, targeting 14 million people aged 18 and above, will begin next month.

Malaysia recorded 1,285 new Covid-19 cases today, bringing the cumulative total to 355,753.

Here’s the round-up of The News Normal today.

CELCOM AND DIGI TO MERGE

Advanced discussions are under way between Axiata Group Bhd and Telenor Asia to merge Celcom Axiata Bhd and Digi.Com Bhd.

If successful, the merger plan will see each party have equal ownership estimated to be worth 33.1 per cent each in Celcom Digi Bhd (MergeCo).

In a statement, Axiata said the joint shareholding of Axiata with Malaysian institutional funds would be over 51 per cent of the merged company, thereby safeguarding national interest.

SARAWAK DEPUTY CM OWNS UP TO NOT WEARING MASK

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Awang Tengah Ali Hasan admitted he had not worn a mask when visiting hawkers in Matu, Mukah last month and will pay for his mistake.

Awang Tengah said the police had informed him that he had been issued a compound, but he did not reveal the amount.

“The police told me that I had been issued a compound. Of course, I will pay it,” he said at the Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation’s assembly today.

A video clip showing him visiting stalls without wearing a face mask during his visit to Matu, on March 31 had been making its rounds.

Awang Tengah explained today that he had to leave the place fast and forgot to put on his mask after eating kuih and having a drink earlier.

PAKATAN WANTS GOVT TO EXPLAIN MALAYSIAN AMBASSADOR MEETING WITH MYANMAR JUNTA

Pakatan Harapan’s secretariat council wants the Foreign Ministry to explain the meeting between Malaysian ambassador to Myanmar Datuk Zahairi Baharim with Myanmar’s Electric and Energy Minister Aung Than Oo in Naypyidaw yesterday.

The council said the meeting raised questions about Malaysia’s stand against the junta.

The council said: “The meeting between the Malaysian ambassador and the Myanmar junta creates the presumption that Malaysia acknowledges the Myanmar government. This does not help efforts to return democracy in Myanmar.”

Myanmar military staged a coup on Feb 1 and removed the elected National League for Democracy party. Since then, over 500 civilians have been killed in clashes between protesters and the government.

WIN AT ALL COSTS MENTALITY KILLS YOUNG FOOTBALLERS’ ENTHUSIASM, SAYS, VETERAN YOUTH COACH

Veteran youth football coach N. Rada Krishnan warns that the “win at all costs” mentality can kill young players’ enthusiasm and make them quit the sport.

In his book ‘Football Knowledge – Guideline Book for Players’, the technical director of Youth Football Academy Red Star wrote that an environment that emphasises “winning at all costs” often results in the less skilful being left out.

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