PETALING JAYA: The country's goal to achieve Covid-19 herd immunity by December will be dampened if Malaysians become picky in choosing what vaccines they want, say health experts.
Universiti Malaya Department of Social and Preventive Medicine Faculty of Medicine's Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming said the vaccination process response rate will be reduced if people start to choose what vaccine brands they want.
This, she said, will slow down the country’s chance of achieving herd immunity.
“There is a lot of information available in explaining the efficacy and effectiveness of various brands of vaccines," she said.
She added that one particular brand of vaccine may not be as good as another in reducing transmission, but it is equally good - more than 90% - in preventing serious complications and hospitalisation, as well as death.
“This information perhaps should be presented in ways that are easier to understand by the less informed groups, ” she said when contacted on Tuesday (June 7).
Dr Moy said doctors from general practitioner (GP) clinics who are much more in contact with the public should play a bigger role in promoting vaccination and allaying public’s fear of certain vaccines.
She suggested that NGOs should also do more outreach programmes on these issues.
“The government also should be more transparent with the data on vaccinations for different brands, and the number and types of side effects experienced as well as breakthrough cases and its outcome. With these data, we may be able to gain the public’s trust on the various brands of vaccines, ” she said.
Previously, coordinating minister for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme Khairy Jamaluddin urged those who have vaccination appointments not to reject a particular vaccine in favour of another, after several senior citizens who turned up for their vaccination appointments at the KL Convention Centre vaccination centre had rejected one brand of vaccine and wanted another brand instead.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia epidemiologist Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Mohd Tamil pointed out that certain parts of the Malaysian population are rejecting not only one brand of vaccine, but all forms of Covid-19 vaccinations.
“This movement has gained traction due to ignorance and misinformation in the social media and communities. Therefore, the ability of this country to achieve herd immunity in a short period is not in sight.
"It is unfortunate that such ignorance and wrongful fears are concentrated only in certain parts of the population.
"Efforts must be made to identify the cause of vaccine hesitancy and community leaders must be roped in to help their communities register and be vaccinated, ” he said.
Dr Azmi believed that the desire to register for the vaccine is very low, especially in the Malay-belt states.
“The vaccine hesitancy in such states among those already registered are very high. Kelantan and Kedah have more than 10, 000 defaulters each, ” he said.
He added that those who are eager to be vaccinated must be facilitated to get inoculated, otherwise the frustration among these groups will also grow.
International Islamic University of Malaysia public health specialist Asst Prof Dr Mohammad Farhan Rusli said receiving any brand or type of vaccine will reduce an individual's risk of developing severe Covid-19 and will help free ICUs, hospitals and wards.
He assured the public that they do not have to be afraid of the vaccines, as all the vaccines have received the World Health Organisation (WHO) Emergency Use Approval.
“The vaccines have also been extensively checked by the NPRA on its safety use, ” he said, adding that the best vaccine is the one that is available to them.