Next Round — A Third Vaccine Dose?

Who are you going to believe? Leading authorities on medical science, or 800 memes on your cousin’s Facebook page?

Samantha Bee, Canadian-American comedian

The recent Covid-19 immunisation statistics for Sarawak indicate a rapid rate of vaccination.

On July 10, 1,367,247 had received their first dose and 520,592 had received their second. This is 66.7 percent and 25.5 percent of the adult population respectively.

This is indeed the type of rapid response the public wanted from the Sarawak government and the government is keeping its promise of procuring the necessary vaccines. Kudos to the Chief Minister and his team.

It is estimated that by July 22, our Sarawak Independence Day public holiday, at least 50 percent of the adult population would be fully vaccinated.

The hard work by the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee in managing and containing the spread of Covid-19 is commendable.

The ongoing good efforts of all at the 96 Pusat Pemberian Vaksin (PPVs) in Sarawak will help us reach the 80 percent herd immunity level soon.

However, we still need to be cautious. Even once this herd immunity is achieved, the virus can still be transmitted from person to person.

The emergence and spread of the various variants in other countries have triggered the re-impositions of public health SOPs after they were relaxed due to the achievement of high vaccination rates.

Therefore, it is not exactly the time to slap each other on the back and say the job is done. It would be more of a quiet sigh of relief and then immediately moving on to face the next threat.

This next step would be the management and containment of the spread of the mutations and variants.

Some other countries are already planning for the vaccination of people with the third dose or booster shots.

Similarly, after the current round of vaccination programmes are completed, there is a high possibility that we need to start planning for Dose 3, booster or next-generation vaccines.

How each one (Dose 3, boosters or next-generation vaccines) works or what is the role of each is best left to the experts to describe.

I am of course only commenting from a layman’s perspective on all these matters.

However, based on reports from other countries and international organisations and agencies, the SOPs and precautions need to stay in place for quite some time to come while details on the role out of Dose 3, boosters or next-generation vaccines are being worked out.

In the meantime, let us take heed of the World Health Organisation executive director Dr Mike Ryan. He has warned that the assumption that transmission of the Covid-19 virus will not increase because of vaccination is false.

According to him, the transmission of the virus will increase when we open up our economy again. This increase in transmission will still put the vulnerable in our society at risk.

Therefore, he has urged that any opening up of activities be done very carefully.

I fully agree with his statement that we must not lose all the hard-won gains that have been made. There needs to be extreme caution about the lifting of the public health measures that are currently in place.

In the meantime, if there is going to be the next round of vaccinations involving Dose 3, boosters or next-generation vaccines, the planning needs to be done now.

There is even talk about annual revaccination programmes to keep the evolving Covid-19 variants at bay.

Issues such as are we going to maintain some of the current PPVs? Will we need to set up semi-permanent or permanent PPVs?

It would be good if the private healthcare sector is allowed to buy vaccines very soon. This will enable those who can afford it to buy the next round of vaccines.

This approach will also help the public healthcare sector to share the financial burden of vaccination. 

This type of long-term solution will most likely be the scenario that we can expect.

The only assurance that we the public need is that the vaccines are available in the public healthcare system as well. There must be a continuity of vaccine availability.

Ultimately, dear Sarawakians, the Covid-19 virus is evolving. We still need to be very careful. So do carry on being cautious and let us keep protecting each other.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.