KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 — Four Covid-19 cases infected with the XBB strain have been recorded in Malaysia, caretaker health minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.
In a press conference at the Ministry of Health (MoH) today, Khairy said that the four cases from Selangor and Negri Sembilan are Malaysians aged between 25 and 51-years-old, with one being a recurrent Covid-19 patient.
All four patients have no travel history abroad and no history of contact with XBB cases, and Khairy said that they have only experienced mild symptoms (category 2) and had isolated themselves. Their close contacts meanwhile, were reported to be in good health.
The XBB strain first emerged in Singapore a few weeks ago and is said to be resistant to vaccines and antibodies from previous infections.
"Singapore has just undergone the XBB wave which took about three to four weeks to subside and this time we too are faced with the infections from XBB. Up till now, we have detected four XBB cases via genomic sequencing which was done by the Institute of Medical Research (IMR), and I have asked that more cases have the genomic sequencing carried out on them," Khairy said.
He added that individuals who have never been infected with Covid-19, those who have only been infected with the Delta variant before or have been infected with the Omicron variant more than six months ago, have a higher risk of being infected with the XBB sub-variant.
Likewise, if one's last dose of the Covid-19 vaccine was taken more than six months ago, the risk of contracting the XBB sub-variant is also higher, Khairy said, adding that it was crucial for the people to get their second booster dose.
The XBB sub-variant is a sub-variant of Omicron that has evolved from the existing BA.2 Omicron sub-variant. It is a recombinant sub-variant from the BA.2.10.1 sub-variant and BA.2.75 with several additional mutations in the spike protein.
"To date, we see that only 519, 839 people have gotten the second booster," he said.
Khairy urged those who are high-risk, frontline workers, pregnant mothers and senior citizens as well as those with poor immunity to get their second booster dose.
During the press conference, Khairy said that the Bivalent Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer would also be available in Malaysia soon.
"There is no additional cost. This was with the existing allocation. We have changed our orders from the old vaccine to the new vaccine and this will reach in November," he said.
On whether the vaccine can be administered to children below 5-year-old, Khairy said that the ministry is currently gathering data from other nations on the matter.
He said that the Covid-19 infection among children though there are some with serious infection cases, most have been moderate.
"However the TWG (technical working group) has already decided and recommended that children below 5-years-old can be given the Covid-19 vaccine if they have health issues," he added.