A group of 20 scientists, doctors and concerned individuals yesterday urged Malaysians to get their COVID-19 vaccine shots as soon as possible, saying that the infection caused by the coronavirus is more dangerous than the prevention.
In a joint statement, they said that a COVID-19 vaccine would only be given a green light once regulators have determined that it is safe, effective and carries significantly more benefits than risks, based on reviews of clinical trial evidence and data.
“Those questioning the safety of COVID-19 vaccines claim they are not anti-vaxxers,” they said, referring to group of conspiracy theorists who are anti-vaccines and vaccinations based on misinformation and disinformation.
“However, the tone of their message — containing the implicit call to avoid COVID-19 vaccines, even those approved by regulators — is disturbingly similar to vaccine-hesitant people across the board who oppose shots like the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine for their children.”
They added that repeated doubts about the government’s procurement of COVID-19 vaccines may contribute to vaccine hesitancy among Malaysians.
This comes as last week, the Ministry of Health revealed the findings of its survey where about a third of Malaysians polled said they are either scared or suspicious of COVID-19 vaccines with most indicating fear of possible side effects.
The rest, or 67 per cent of the 212,006 respondents that participated in the survey, were more welcoming, with up to 95 per cent of them expressing confidence that the vaccines are safe for use.
They added that critics are free to call for more data and transparency related to all aspects of COVID-19 vaccines but should not be clouded with anti-capitalist sentiment and political ideology.
“The National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) uses a rigorous and thorough process in evaluating all vaccines and medicines for use in Malaysia. The critical aspects of a vaccine that we should be concerned with, which have been entrusted to the NPRA, are its efficacy and safety,” they said.
They added that while the speed of the development of COVID-19 vaccines is unprecedented, mRNA technology has been around since the early 2000s, while the early proof-of-concept of using gene-based therapeutics to produce the proteins necessary to combat disease was published back in 1990.
“Scientists started work as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. Large scale clinical trials were conducted through global collaborative efforts by governments, international institutions, the private sector, research institutions, and nonprofits. These COVID-19 vaccine studies have been run with the same scientific rigour as for any other vaccines,” they said.
They also shared that a safe vaccine does not mean it is completely free from side effects or adverse events. The H1N1 vaccine, for example, was linked with an extremely small risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rare autoimmune disorder causing nerve damage), affecting 1.6 cases among every one million people vaccinated.
“However, vaccination produces overwhelmingly greater benefits to individuals and society than the risks due to adverse reactions. It is because of vaccines that infectious diseases such as polio and measles have been largely eliminated in many countries, or totally eradicated as is the case with smallpox,” they added.
The statement was endorsed among others by former director-generals of health Tan Sri Dr Abu Bakar Suleiman and Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican, former deputy director-generals Datuk Dr Christopher Lee and Prof Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman, infectious disease specialist Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, President of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Association Dr Steven Chow, and President of the Malaysian Medical Association Professor Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy. — Malay Mail
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