By ELWIN DAVA
PETALING JAYA: Of the more than a million Malaysians who have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, none have suffered any ill effects.
This, according to the Malaysian Medical Association (MEF), should serve as evidence that it is safe to be vaccinated.
This, MEF president Datuk Dr M. Subramaniam said, would also help the country achieve its target of herd immunity sooner.
“If everyone cooperates, we will be able to meet the nation’s target of having at least 80% of the people vaccinated to achieve herd immunity by February next year,” he said.
He said the lack of trust in the efficacy and safety of the vaccine is one of the factors that have slowed down the pace of vaccination in Malaysia and that many, who had earlier registered for the jabs, had failed to show up at the appointed date.
Reports of severe side effects and even death caused by blood clots, have left many uncertain about going for the vaccine.
For instance, a total of 1,411 people aged 60 and above did not turn up for their Covid-19 jabs in Kelantan last month despite having registered for it.
According to state health director Datuk Dr Zaini Hussin, they had been scheduled for the vaccination in stages.
According to the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee, 10,146,732 individuals have registered for the vaccine as of Sunday, but only 1,177,030 have received at least one dose, and just over 732,000 have received both doses. That accounts for just over 2% of the population. In comparison, 14.53% of Singaporeans have been fully vaccinated, and so have 3.1% of Indonesians.
Science Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had earlier claimed that pharmaceutical companies that are supplying the vaccines are giving priority to the wealthier nations.
However, Subramaniam pointed out that the World Health Organisation has stressed that the distribution must be done fairly.
He said that while the MySejahtera app has proven to be useful, its penetration in rural areas is low. “People there may not even be aware of the importance of vaccination,” he said.
He said health and social workers should travel to the rural areas to educate the communities there. “Focus on the village heads of indigenous communities. These people are afraid of change. We must reassure them than that the vaccine is safe,” he said.
Professor of occupational and public health at Universiti Malaya Dr Victor Hoe told theSun that many people still believe that the vaccines are dangerous.
He said that apart from the fear of side effects, many people still believe that some vaccines are better than others.
However, he said, this problem could be easily resolved by engaging the help of non-governmental organisations to convince people that it is safe to get vaccinated.
“They can focus on particular groups of people, such as the elderly. They can also reach out to the rural areas to raise awareness about the importance of vaccination,” he said.
He said village chiefs and MPs should also be roped in to help dispel people’s concerns about the side effects by disseminating the right information, and to encourage them to register for the vaccines.
“Depending solely on the Health Ministry is not practical,” Hoe said. “We must also enlist the services of all healthcare providers in the country.”
He said that at the current rate of 21,000 vaccinations per day, it is unlikely that Malaysia will meet its target of achieving herd immunity by February next year.