The world has been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed many lives and wreaked havoc on the economy.
Now, there is light at the end of the tunnel after a year or so of uncertainty, with the production of several types of vaccine.
In Malaysia, the government has kickstarted a vaccination programme, which would be done in phases, beginning with frontliners.
Federal Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who is also the minister coordinating the national Covid-19 immunisation programme, said the Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Special Committee (JKJAV) was ensuring that the ongoing immunisation plan run smoothly, and has the support of all Malaysians.
He also confirmed that as of March 1, 32,277 people had received the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and that more than 1.2 million Malaysians had registered for the vaccination programme.
The Ministry of Health had also continued to intensify efforts to make the immunisation programme a success by ensuring that the vaccine used is in compliance with international regulatory requirements, standards and guidelines.
The registration process included screening of applications while product registration and evaluation were presented to the product evaluation committee of the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Division (NPRA).
When met during preparations for the launch of the immunisation programme at Stadium Perpaduan Kuching on Feb 25, Family Health Development Division physician from the Kuching Division Health Office, Dr Maila Mustapha, declared her support for the programme because it was free and voluntary.
“My advice is that all Malaysians should not be afraid to take this vaccine because the main purpose of the programme is to ensure herd immunity among our communities in Sarawak.
“We are targeting at least 70 to 80 percent vaccination so that we can protect others, especially high-risk groups and children.”
The vaccination programme has three phases with the first focusing on frontliners such as MoH personnel, the police, army, firefighters, teachers, and so on.
The second phase targets high-risk groups such as the elderly, people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity while the third phase involves Sarawakians aged 18 to 60 years with no disease.
Dr Maila disclosed that so far, the vaccination programme involved Malaysians aged 18 and above only as the rate of infection and contra complications involving those under 18 was low.
Touching on the public questioning the effectiveness of the vaccine and deeming it as an experimental material, Dr Maila explained that they must understand that the vaccine was created to prevent disease and not to cure.
“Side effects are the same as when we take medicine, but it does not happen to every individual depending on a person’s immunity.
“To reduce the infection, we have to get the maximum vaccine, which is two doses for this Pfizer BioNTech vaccine to get a 95 per cent reading of its effectiveness.”
At the same time, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, who attended the launching ceremony of the State Level Covid-19 Immunisation Programme at Stadium Perpaduan, Petra Jaya on Feb 27, called on all Sarawakians to register through the MySejahtera app.
“My presence here proves that the vaccine is safe for those who have no health issues.
“The vaccine is not a cure but a protection against the possibility of infection that can help break the chain of Covid-19 transmission,” said Abang Johari, who was one of the earliest recipients of the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the state, on Feb 26.
There are six stages of vaccine arrival in Sarawak, with a total of 23,400 doses arriving on Feb 24; 31,590 doses on March 2; 4,680 doses on March 10; 4,680 doses on March 17; 14,040 doses on March 24; and 9,360 doses on March 31.
The first phase of vaccination began on Feb 26 and will last until April 30, during which Sarawak is expected to receive 87,750 doses for the vaccination of 97,161 people.
For the second phase, Sarawak will receive 87,750 doses for 956,435 recipients or 72 per cent comprising the elderly and vulnerable groups in April and May this year.
For the third phase, Sarawak will receive vaccine delivery for 999,834 individuals aged 18 years and above or 43 per cent for the period between May and August.
Assistant medical officer at one of the government health centres here, Mohammad Iqbal, who is also among the frontliners who have been vaccinated on the first day of the programme, said he felt safer and hoped that the vaccination programme would return things to normal for everyone.
“I can’t wait to get a second injection and encourage family members and friends to get this vaccine as well. There is nothing to worry about because it has been approved by the NPRA.”
A resident from Limbang, who only wanted to be known as Ramli, also shared his relief and gratitude for the government’s efforts and hard work for successfully obtaining the supply of vaccine, as well as grateful for the perseverance and cooperation of many parties in curbing the spread of Covid-19.
Recently, the MoH stated that pregnant women and individuals with low contraindications could also take the vaccine even though their immunity level is lower than healthy individuals after getting the vaccine.
However, they need to seek the advice of a specialist before undergoing the procedure.
The Malaysian Information Department (JaPen) also made announcements and created awareness through Info on Wheels (IoW) programmes in 33 districts throughout the state.
JaPen distributed approximately 13,000 leaflets pertaining to the vaccination programme as of February in addition to face-to-face explanations at grassroots level.
There is no doubt that many miss the Covid-19 virus-free times, where everyone could gather with family members and friends and do social activities freely, so let’s make this immunisation programme a success by registering for the vaccine.