Author's blurb: The global recovery phase from the pandemic is taking place. True, COVID-19 vaccines are already being distributed and will hit the coast of Malaysia very soon.
A recent study by YouGov found that 82% of Malaysians are willing to get vaccinated. This was announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in the Prime Minister's office in November 2020.
While the population of the country waits for these vaccines to be available, here are 7 facts you should know about the shot, as highlighted by ypolitics.my on their Instagram post.
1. 82.8% of the population are vaccinated
To achieve herd immunity, 70% of the population must be vaccinated. With an allocation of RM 2.05 billion, Malaysia has managed to procure COVID-19 vaccines for 82.8% of the population (26.5 million Malaysians).
They are sourced from a few brands:
- 20% from Pfizer-BioNTech;
- 10% from Oxford-AstraZeneca;
- 10% from the WHO facility in Covax;
- 21.9% from Sinovac;
- 10.9% of CanSinoBIO;
- 10% from Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.
2. The vaccine is free and voluntary for Malaysians
PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin / Photo credit: Muhyiddin Yassin's Facebook
It is provided free of charge to Malaysians, but foreigners may be required to pay a fee set by the Ministry of Health. This was announced by Muhyiddin in the Prime Minister's office.
The shot will also be voluntary. You can log in and give your consent to the injection using a MySejahtera app feature that will be introduced in the near future.
A portion of the foreign workers, expatriates and other non-Malaysian residents will also be included in the program, which was announced on January 5 this year.
However, the number of people involved in these groups is determined by the government based on risk assessments.
If we vaccinate our people, but not three million foreigners, we are at risk because we have not reached the herd immunity threshold.
Khairy Jamaluddin from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI).
3. Children are exempt from the vaccine
Currently only the adult population is vaccinated (given the vaccine). Children are exempt from tax due to the lack of clinical studies on children under 12 years of age.
High risk groups are prioritized. This includes frontliners, seniors and those with autoimmune diseases.
4. Side effects are only short term
Based on the data obtained from MOSTI, the vaccine will not have any serious side effects.
“All vaccines have side effects. The important thing is that they are not serious or harmful, ”said Deputy Minister Ahmad Amzad Hashim in an interview with Bernama Radio's Jendela Fikir program.
Volunteer Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine / Image Credit: AP News
Some common side effects reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States noted:
- A headache; and
- Pain and swelling in the arm where you were shot.
In most cases, symptoms of fever or pain are normal. The CDC advised people with side effects to see a doctor if:
- The redness or tenderness at which you received the shot will increase after 24 hours.
- You are concerned about your side effects or they don't seem to go away after a few days.
5. Authorization for use lasts 90-120 days
Muhyiddin announced that Malaysia will receive its first batch of vaccines in February 2021.
However, vaccination will not begin until the vaccine has been approved by our National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) after a thorough review process.
This process can take between 90 and 120 days. This means that the earliest approval time is April 26th and June 14th the latest.
Azrul Mohd Khalib, CEO of the Galen Center for Health and Social Policy / Image Credit: sihatMalaysia
However, it is worth noting that the US has already approved emergency use for the Pfizer vaccine. It was approved by the country's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on December 11th, which found it safe and 95% effective.
This finding is based on a global phase 3 clinical study with more than 43,000 participants.
Dictionary time: Extensive tests will be done during the Phase 3 trials to see if the vaccine will protect against the virus. Once Phase 3 is shown to be effective, the vaccine will be reviewed for mass use by the National Medicines Agency.
So far, the US, UK and Canada have already started vaccinating their citizens with the Pfizer vaccine.
Regardless of decisions made in other countries, the NPRA will make its own independent assessments, assured Azrul Mohd Khalib, executive director of the Galen Center for Health and Social Policy.
“Malaysia has its own review process that needs to be applied consistently and predictably to different pharmaceutical products. It is important not to make unnecessary compromises or short cuts, ”Azrul said in an interview with CodeBlue.
6. It could be Malaysia's greatest logistical challenge in history
Vaccine doses / Photo credit: Unsplash
The Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at minus 75 ° C – which means logistical problems. Even high-income and cold countries such as the USA and Great Britain have massive logistical hurdles.
The UK NHS described the COVID-19 vaccination program as "one of the greatest challenges the NHS has ever faced".
An uninterrupted cold chain with temperatures below minus 75 ° C must be maintained, otherwise there is a risk that it will defrost within a day and lose its effectiveness.
However, Malaysia already has ultra-cold storage capacities such as -80 ° C freezers at public universities and research institutes across the country.
According to MOSTI's Khairy, who added that Malaysia's agreement with Pfizer also covers delivery to multiple vaccination sites.
7. You've got it covered for those in rural areas
Due to the special storage requirements, poor infrastructure will cause difficulties with last mile deliveries in rural areas.
Rural villagers can face transportation problems reaching vaccination centers, especially if they are stationed in larger cities.
To counter this, the government is planning to distribute vaccines that can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures between 2 and 8 ° C.
This includes most of the other brands mentioned above as only Pfizer needs to be stored in ultra-cold temperatures.
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It is encouraging to hear that Malaysia is finally seeing a more reliable solution to overcoming the pandemic, but the vaccine doesn't mean we can resume our pre-pandemic lifestyle immediately.
As Dr. Noor Hisham reminded us that the COVID-19 vaccine should not be viewed as an "immunity passport" for people who break restrictions and can travel freely.
Bottom line: It sounds hard to believe that Malaysians will get the vaccination for free, but if the Department of Health's free vaccination program is any indication, rest assured that if you don't seek treatment in private health facilities, you can just walk away vaccinated and pay for it at KKM almost nothing.
- More articles on COVID-19 can be found here.
Selected image source: Khairy Jamaluddin and Unsplash from MOSTI