By Michelle Ng
I wrote this the morning after attending a lecture about the Covid-19 Vaccine with Dr Khor Swee Kheng, who is a medical doctor, researcher and health policy specialist. Given recent news of the arrival of the Pfizer and Sinovac vaccine on our shores, I felt it appropriate for me to share some knowledge that I have gained from the lecture.
- How many people have been vaccinated?
At the time of writing, Bloomberg reports that about 236million people around the world have been vaccinated.
- How was the vaccine produced so quickly?
In producing vaccines, several factors have to come together – funding, political will, market guarantee, volunteers for clinical trials. Outside a pandemic, these factors come together slowly over a long period of time. Given however that Covid-19 had worldwide impact – funding, political will, market guarantee and volunteers for clinical trials became very quickly available. Pfizer, for example, had 40,000 people for clinical trials. Some researchers find it difficult to get this number for a duration of 4 years under normal circumstances. Speed therefore, in the case of Covid-19 vaccines, does not compromise quality.
- Why should we take the vaccine?
The benefits of taking the vaccine far outweigh its risk. In other words, the risk of Covid-19 is much higher than taking the vaccine. Covid-19 has at February 2021 recorded 2.5million deaths and 112million cases.
In the short term so far, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports from a study of 18mil vaccine recipients in the United States that there has been no deaths from taking the vaccine, and only 66 cases of anaphylaxis, which comes up to 0.0004%.
For those who are worried of anaphylaxis, I have been informed that, in Malaysia, all patients who take the vaccine will be monitored for 30 minutes after taking the vaccine, which is when any allergic reaction might materialise. Medical attention will be readily available on site for immediate response.
Malaysia also needs to achieve herd immunity in order for life to return to some semblance of normalcy. This means that we’d need more than 70% to be vaccinated. This is a tall order, given that researchers are still gathering data to determine whether the vaccine is suitable to be taken by those under 18, pregnant women and nursing mothers. To achieve 70% excluding these people will be a challenge.
In my conversation with residents, I am made aware of the concerns you have. In this regard, I have decided to accept the offer for elected representatives to go through the vaccination process in hopes that it will help allay any concerns from my constituents and boost vaccine confidence. As I have allergies, I hope that my journey will be informative. Please follow my journey, which I will be documenting on Facebook and Instagram (michelle.ngmeisze).
- How do we register to take the vaccine?
Registration can now be done through the MySejahtera app.
- What if I do not use a smart phone and do not have MySejahtera?
In my conversation with Pejabat Kesihatan Daerah Petaling, I have been informed that they are in the midst of rolling out a manual registration programme for those who fall in this category, and who are interested in taking the vaccine in Phase 2 of the programme. Do look out for this in the news.
- Can mRNA vaccine alter my DNA?
No. Firstly, mRNA is not DNA. DNA is produced in the nucleus of the cell. mRNA does not enter the nucleus. In fact, the mRNA introduced by the vaccine is weak. It stays in the body for a very short period (about 72 hours) and is destroyed after its information is read.
- What side effects can I expect from the vacccine?
It will be entirely normal to experience headache, swelling at injection site, tiredness and fever after taking the vaccine. This is in fact a good sign! It means that your body is producing the necessary antibodies to protect you.
I hope the information above helps answer some of the questions that I have come across and allay concerns that you might have about the vaccine. This exercise is a case where we must all be in it together for the process to be effective. We all, therefore, have a role to play.