COVID-19 Vaccination – an Update

In an interview with Shivani Supramani from the Sun, Professor Dr Victor Hoe discussed the latest issue of COVID-19 vaccination in Malaysia.

Here is the response from Prof Dr Victor Hoe:

Many are under the impression that vaccinations are a bulletproof vest against Covid-19. Is there a possibility to get infected after completing both doses of the vaccine? If so, why are vaccines not silver bullets against the virus?

We must understand that the COVID-19 vaccine that we have are not to stop people from getting the infection. Even a person who has been fully vaccinated, i.e., two weeks after receiving the 2nd dose of a two-dose vaccine will still be able to get the COVID-19. The vaccination protects us against severe disease and death. The vaccination is only effective if everyone gets vaccinated and we achieve herd immunity.

We are seeing the same problem with other vaccines, occasionally we see measles outbreaks when a large group of people are not vaccinated with the measles vaccine.

Will this affect confidence in vaccination although it is the only solution we have at the moment to achieve herd immunity? If so, what can be done to assure the rakyat to get vaccinated?

The message should be clear that no vaccination programme offers 100 per cent protection. The protection that vaccine provides depends on the immunity of the person, the virulence and transmissibility of the virus and the virus load the person is receiving. That is why it is important for us to promote vaccination for all Rakyat. Everyone should do their part to help people who have not registered for the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has proven to protect us against severe disease and death. The vaccination is only effective if everyone gets vaccinated and we achieve herd immunity.

What are some steps that one should continue to practice even after one has been vaccinated to prevent an infection from occurring?

Everyone should continue to follow the SOP even after completing their COVID-19 vaccination. This includes wearing a face mask, physical distancing and observing hand hygiene when we are in public areas. We should also avoid crowds, confined spaces and closed conversation. Since we now know that the SARS-CoV-2 is airborne, i.e., it can be transmitted through the air, we need to ensure that the places we visit, particularly public spaces have good ventilation. If we need to stay in an enclosed area we can consider opening the windows or doors to allow fresh air into the room.

In your opinion as a health expert, do you believe enough is being done to educate the general public regarding vaccines and how they function? If so, what steps can be taken to spread awareness about vaccines and how they work?

From what I have been seeing in traditional, online and social media there are many sources of information that explain and promote the benefit of vaccination. However, there are also some irresponsible people that are spreading false and fake news about the vaccine. We need to do more to ensure that the correct message reaches the people. Everyone should do their part to spread the message of the benefit of vaccination. This includes elected representatives, heads of villages and communities, Penghulus, NGOs and the family doctors. We need to understand why there is still hesitancy towards getting vaccinated.

In your opinion, why do you believe that people still have faith in the vaccine? Could it be due to the quick take-up rate for the AZ opt-in initiative? Or are there other factors that play a hand here?

People are desperate to see the high number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. There are also many social media postings of packed COVID-19 Assessment Centres and MAEPS. They are also seeing countries that previously have high numbers of cases like the UK and US the number has come down after the success of their vaccination programmes. The combination of all these factors may be the reason for the increased interest in vaccination.

The interview was published in theSunDaily on 02 June 2021.

Article was written by Prof Victor Hoe

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