There is a need to address the rumours and fear created by some quarters on the safety of the Covid-19 vaccines.
BY ASSOC PROF DR TAN TOH LEONG
The great breakthrough in vaccine history by using mRNA technology creates the enigma in vaccine safety.
Many rumours about vaccines were since then spreading on social media. The situation makes the public disbelieve in this new Covid-19 vaccine and created chaos for the public; thus, being a hindrance in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. The main culprit was the media overtly publicising some non-validated information on the Covid-19 vaccines complications which created unnecessary fear amongst the public.
Recently, JAMA published a very comprehensive report dated Feb 12, 2021 with the title “Reports of Anaphylaxis After Receipt of mRNA Covid-19 vaccine in the US – Dec 14, 2020 – Jan 18, 2021”.The article mainly addressed the safety of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines.
This report stated only 66 reports on side effects out of 17,524,676 doses of mRNA vaccine without a single death. It is the most delightful news to the world. Out of these 17.5 million doses, 9.94 million were from Pfizer-BioNTech and 7.6 million from Moderna.
Of the 66 cases, 47 were from Pfizer and 19 from Moderna. The majority are female (95 per cent) with a mean age of 40. Most of these patients (79 per cent) have a history of allergy and previous severe anaphylaxis.
Thirty-one cases had severe anaphylaxis, followed by five cases with moderate and seven cases with mild side effects. The side effect ranges from a mild allergy, skin rashes, a heart attack and lung failure.
Low side effects risk
Many of these side effects occur within 30 mins after injection. Eighteen of them were admitted to the ICU and seven out of them required mechanical ventilation. All these patients received prompt treatment. All of them recovered fully and were discharged uneventfully. No deaths from anaphylaxis after the vaccination with either product was reported.
With this latest scientific evidence, the risk of getting side effects from vaccines is 4.7 cases per million (0.0005 per cent risk) for Pfizer and 2.5 cases per million (0.000025 per cent) for Moderna, which are lower than the chance of car accident- related death.
This is also proof that vaccine safety is well established. Compared with the risk of Covid-19 related deaths (Malaysia: 0.2-0.4 per cent; Worldwide: 2-4%), the vaccine- related deaths are dismissible.
There are only a few ways to fight a pandemic. “Prevention, Isolation, and Treatment” are the key to terminate a pandemic. For your information, the movement control order (MCO) and quarantine are part of the isolation strategy. Since effective treatment for Covid-19 has yet to be discovered, vaccination will play an important part as a prevention strategy to terminate this pandemic.
Achieving herd immunity
Malaysians need 80 per cent herd immunity to terminate it and protect those who are unable to vaccinate. The Malaysian government has imported many vaccine doses from various vaccine companies which will cover more than 80 per cent of Malaysia’s population. The vaccination programme will be divided into three phases.
For Phase 1, the target population are those medical and non-medical frontliners (involving 500,000 individuals from Feb-April 2021); Phase 2, target population involves remaining frontliners, elderly comprising 65-year-olds and above, and those who have chronic diseases (involving 9.4 million individuals from April-August 2021); Phase 3, for all 18-year-old and above Malaysians and non-Malaysians (involving 13.7 million individuals from May 2021 to Feb 2022).
Phase 2 and 3 will also dedicate some doses of vaccine to fight local Covid-19 outbreak clusters from time to time. To achieve this 80 per cent, all Malaysians have the responsibility to make it happen by receiving the vaccine voluntarily.
While waiting for the vaccination program to be executed, we need to remember always to keep social distancing, wear a mask and wash hands frequently.
Let us hand-in-hand make Malaysia safe again! — The Health
Dr Tan Toh Leong is Senior Lecturer and Emergency Medical Consultant, UKM Medical Center, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and President and Founder of Malaysian Sepsis Alliance.