So Should I Get A Covid 19 Jab
So, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has become the first in the country to be officially vaccinated against Covid-19. He becomes V1. Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah who received the second jab becomes V2.
Certainly in becoming V1 and V2, Muhyiddin and Nor Hisham hope to boost public confidence in the vaccine. Also, as a senior citizen, Muhyiddin is in the high-risk group.
This is the beginning of a three-phase immunisation programme, with frontliners getting vaccinated between now and April. Those aged above 60 and other high-risk groups will get vaccinated in the second phase between April and August while all the rest will be eligible to get jabs after May.
While some Malaysians are ready for the vaccine, others are uncertain. If you were to read the medical literature on the vaccines available and those still under development and listen to what the health experts say, you’d know that there are still many uncertainties.
If I get the vaccine, will I be fully protected? No one can give a guarantee. If I get the vaccine, does it mean I will not spread it to others? Scientists don’t know yet. How long will I be protected after getting a jab? There’s no definite answer either. How effective will the vaccines be against variants of the virus now appearing in some countries? Nobody knows for certain.
There are still many “ifs” although governments everywhere are pushing for massive vaccination rollouts in their respective countries.
Will I still have to wear a mask after being vaccinated? Yes, say the experts. Will I still have to practice physical distancing? Yes, say the experts. Will I still have to wash my hands as frequently as I do now? Yes, say the experts. After getting vaccinated, will I be able to move freely, without restrictions? For now you still won’t be able to move around as freely as you did during pre-Covid-19 days, say the authorities.
As I’ve said before, governments are desperate to resolve the health crisis or at least show they are doing something to help their people, and medical experts in authority seem to agree that vaccinations are the best course.
There are many Malaysians who are concerned about the side-effects of the vaccines, especially since there have been reports of deaths after vaccination in some countries. Also, many don’t know what to make of the fact that some doctors and health experts are arguing against these vaccines while the official medical establishment is pushing for vaccination.
What is the layman to do under these circumstances? Nobody wants to die or suffer serious side-effects after taking a jab that is supposed to protect against a particular disease.
I suppose that is why the government has introduced a compensation scheme for those who suffer serious side-effects: to tell them that even if something does go wrong, they’ll be taken care of.
After receiving the first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters: “This is meant for those who experience direct side-effects which are serious after the administration of the Covid-19 vaccine.”
A friend said we should all watch Muhyiddin over the next few days to see how the vaccine affects him. “If he advises the King to lift the state of emergency or cuts down his Cabinet size by half, we can be sure the vaccine has side-effects,” he quipped.
But jokes aside, news coming from the US where the immunisation programme started last December is encouraging.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on Feb 19 detailing the vaccination period between Dec 14 and Jan 13 when the first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the first dose of the Moderna vaccine were administered.
It said a total of the 13,794,904 Covid-19 vaccine doses were administered in the US during this period and that the Vaccine Adverse Reporting System received 6,994 reports of side-effects, or what it calls “adverse events”. Of this number, only 640 people were classified as having serious issues, with 113 of them dying.
According to the CDC report, there is no evidence that the 113 deaths were caused by the vaccine. But that is what you’d expect the CDC or any regulatory body or expert to say, as there are many uncertainties. The report noted that about two-thirds of those who died were residents of long-term care facilities, which means they were already being treated for illnesses or were old.
That, of course, doesn’t mean it is fine. Every death is a tragedy, especially for the family concerned. But, the CDC report does given an indication of what we can expect in Malaysia.
It reported that headache (22.4%), fatigue (16.5%) and dizziness (16.5%) were the most frequently reported side-effects after vaccination. According to medical experts, these are common, short-lived symptoms after any vaccination.
In addition, there were 62 complaints of anaphylaxis – a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. It said 46 of the cases occurred after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine while the rest had had the Moderna vaccine.
Reports from the UK are also positive. Public Health England said early data from a large study in the UK indicated that Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine provided strong protection against infection with just one shot. It said “significant protection” from infection occurred 10 days after the jab and plateaued after 21 days.
It added: “Data show one dose reduces the risk of catching infection by more than 70%, rising to 85% after the second dose.” It notes that you cannot spread the virus if you do not have an infection.
Despite the positive news, no medical expert can predict with 100% certainty how the vaccine will react in someone’s body.
I usually turn to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine website for authoritative information about Covid-19. It has excellent information on the disease and the vaccines, but even this expert institution is cautious when it comes to recommending vaccination outright.
This question appears in one of its Q&A articles: “Does Johns Hopkins Medicine recommend I get a Covid-19 vaccine?”
Answer: “You alone make the decision about whether to get a Covid-19 vaccine. We encourage you to talk to your primary care doctor and review our resources provided here, as well as information from other healthcare organisations. Johns Hopkins Medicine will continue to provide science-based, unbiased information so you can make an informed decision.”
So, ultimately, the choice is ours.
But if a vaccination certificate is required to travel abroad – as is almost certain in the months to come – or even out of our state, we really don’t have a choice do we? - FMT
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.
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