The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Director-General, Dr. Noor Hisham targets to vaccinate 80 percent of the Malaysian adult population by year-end to achieve herd immunity in the country.
Chairman and Group Medical Advisor of Ramsay Sime Darby Health Care, Dr. Jacob Thomas says that only with vaccines and SOP’s in place can reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the nation.
“The Health Ministry of Malaysia (MOH) has identified 605 locations to be used as vaccination centres for the Covid-19 immunisation programme which is scheduled to kick-off at the end of this month.”
“If herd immunity is achieved with 70 percent of the population vaccinated, then the spread is contained, and deaths can be reduced,” Dr. Jacob comments.
Dr. Rajiv Bhanot of H2GO tells BusinessToday a vaccinated herd immunity works through providing vaccines for a substantial portion of the population. Vaccines work by training and preparing the body’s natural defences; the immune system, to recognise and fight off the viruses and bacteria they target.
The National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme has been sped up due to the quick arrival of the vaccines procured by Putrajaya to support the programme to achieve a target of achieving herd immunity by May 2022.
Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur’s Consultant Clinical Immunologist/Allergist (Adults and Pediatrics) of the Allergy and Immunology Centre, Dr. Amir Hamzah Abdul Latiff says vaccines are there to achieve a percentage of herd immunity between 72 to 90 percent.
Dr. Amir compares the Covid-19 outbreak with the Measles outbreak as Measles had a higher herd immunity rate of 94 percent due to the high infectivity rate that disease had.
“The important question here is how many percent of the population needs protection. Without vaccines, it is somewhere around 60 percent. In Malaysia, getting close to 80 percent which covers 26 million of the population is achievable to attain herd immunity with the vaccine,” he says.
Reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that the current [March 4] confirmed cases of Covid-19 are at 114,653,749 which includes 2,550,500 deaths with the Americas region recording most casualties of 50,984,745 confirmed cases.
As of March 4, South East Asia confirmed cases are 13,606,700 with Malaysia registering 2,063 cases even with strict SOPs and multiple lockdowns made by Putrajaya.
Educate, Educate, And Educate.
As of March 2, MOH has approved three more vaccines from AstraZeneca, Sinovac and Pfizer to be used in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme with strict regulations by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Division (NPRA).
Under the programme, MOH assures that mass vaccination is voluntary and there are no laws for mandatory vaccination.
Dr. Jacob points out that relevant authorities can change unfounded fears and misconceptions with proper educational programmes.
“Vaccination is always voluntary. Even vaccines for Influenza, Measles, and Polio are not compulsory,” he says.
However, Dr. Amir remains doubtful due to the misinformation and disinformation by anti-vaxxers on social media, however he believes Putrajaya is implementing the correct approach by educating the public and allowing people to volunteer for the programme.
“The government needs to highlight the advantages of being vaccinated but also ensure current SOPs are still abided by even after vaccination takes place,” he adds.
MOH is currently working with the Communications and Multimedia Ministry to closely monitor activities of anti-vaxxers groups that spread negative propaganda on social media.
Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA)’s Family Medicine Senior Consultant of the Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Harmy Bin Mohamed Yusoff points out that most of the anti-vaccine rallies are based on heavy emotions.
“Relevant authorities like MOH and MOSTI should be the ones spearheading the way to educate the people about the goodwill of the vaccine so that more proper information is being relayed to the citizens,” Dr. Harmy tells BusinessToday.
As phase one of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme takes place, MySejahtera has recorded almost two million Malaysians registering for the vaccination.
Dr. Rajiv points out that being directive and instructive is the way forward in educating the public on the vaccines and there has been strong historic data to prove that vaccines are effective in preventing diseases, especially for new-borns and infants.
“Polio was eliminated in the United States with vaccination and continued use of the polio vaccine has kept the country polio-free. However, for newer vaccinations such as the Covid-19 vaccine, we need to be transparent and clear by providing factual data to the people,” he says.
People’s Belief in Vaccines
“All religious bodies have endorsed the vaccine as something essential and is in full support of our government’s goals of vaccination. Covid-19 is a viral infection, and the vaccine is only to prevent us from getting the infection,” Dr. Jacob points out.
Federal Territories Mufti Dr. Luqman Abdullah indicates that the vaccination is ‘harus’ (permissible in Islam), but it should be encouraged on the advice of MOH that it is necessary to curb the spread of the outbreak.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Hindu Sangam (MHS) President RS Mohan Shan states that the vaccination should be given to all for the well-being of the people, regardless of religion, race, and country.
Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia (BMSM) President Sister Loh Pai Ling also expresses the practice of doing good, as taught by Buddha, which includes taking the vaccination because of the goodwill done to the individual and society.
“Religion must be there to give a positive effect. Remove ourselves away from all of this and look at wanting to help other people in the time of the outbreak,” Dr Amir emphasises.
On February 26, MOSTI Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin approached one of the biggest Muslim Facebook group in a virtual event to disclose the value of the vaccine. A tweet by the Coordinating Minister for Covid-19 Immunisation says it all.
Dr. Harmy says that the anti-vaxxers use religious sentiment to get people on board with their ideologies and it is working in some ways especially in Malaysia where religion is an important aspect in everyday life of a Malaysian.