Should people be given a choice to choose the COVID-19 vaccine?

Recently there has been news about the different efficacy and safety concern about the different COVID-19 vaccines. Given this concern, should the public be allowed to choose the vaccine that they want? Hakem Kassan, a reporter from the Sun Daily interviewed Prof Awang Bulgiba and Prof Dr Victor Hoe on this issue.

Prof Awang Bulgiba said that being given a choice would appeal to many because different type of vaccine have different severe adverse reaction, effectiviness and vaccine employing new manufacturing technology that some people may be uncomfortable with. He highlighted that it is not feasible at the moment to allow people to choose. The main reasons include the cost, logistic, storing and administring different vaccine if not done properly will lead to wastage and delay in vaccination. The other concern is that due to the limited supply of vaccine, people who want specific vaccine may need to wait longer for the vaccine.

Prof Dr Victor concur that the current supply is still limited and allowing people to choose, may deny others of the vaccine they need. He highlited that even people with money to pay for the vaccine and if we allow free market, then those who really need the vaccine would not get it. He stressed that it is important to understand that unless everyone is safe, no one is safe.

He further explains why it is difficult to allow people to choose: “The literature on the efficacy and side effects of the vaccine are complicated and difficult for a layperson to understand. There are many factors to consider before we can decide on which is the best vaccine. This decision is not easy to make. It would be better for the healthcare professional to decide on which vaccine will offer the best protection with the lowest risk of side effects.”

He also assure that the effort taken by the healthcare practitioner to ensure the health and safety of those who receive the vaccine; “There are many safety measures taken before and after the vaccine is administered. The medical officer will ask for your detailed medical history, and whether you have any previous history of allergies to medication or food. If you have any history of allergy, they will ask again if you have any severe reaction. The medical officer will then decide whether you are suitable for the vaccine. When the vaccine has been administered, you are required to wait for 15 or 30 minutes depending on your history of allergy. The advice that I can provide for those who are going for the vaccine is to ensure that you provide an accurate medical history.”

He said that any vaccine or medication intended for use in Malaysia needs to be approved by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA).

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