A successful vaccination programme is our exit strategy for this pandemic
BY KHIRTINI K KUMARAN
A virtual forum on ‘Covid Control and Vaccination’ was organised recently to shed light on how the pandemic is being handled in Malaysia. It was also to address the hesitancy among some Malaysians to participate in the National Immunisation Programme.
The speakers for the forum were Dr B Venugopalan, Consultant Public Health Specialist, Deputy State Health Director of Selangor State Health Department (Public Health Division) and Datuk Dr C Suresh Kumar Chidambaram, Senior Consultant, Infectious Disease Physician and Head of Medical Department from Hospital Sungai Buloh.
The forum was moderated by Dr Sandeep Menon, Medical Officer from Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
MCO is not the solution
Dr Venugopalan presented the topic ‘Covid Control: Where are we going?’ to better understand the pandemic control established in Malaysia, particularly on the Movement Control Order (MCO).
He explained the MCO was not the cure or the definitive solution against the pandemic. It was implemented to buy some time, identify a better solution, or ease the load in hospitals.
He added: “For example, the first MCO’s objectives was to understand the novel virus transmissions, the disease, and to identify which personal protective measures work. Meanwhile, for the hospitals, we needed the time to develop an effective treatment protocol.
“The numbers we see now are the transmission among the members of our community. A lot more people are entering the ICU because the vulnerable group, such as the elderlies, are getting the disease.”
The MCO, he said, is usually declared not just based on an increase in cases but also on the ICU capacity.
“It’s merely a pause button, implemented to conserve the use of our ICU beds and ventilators.”
“If the ICU is now flooded and people are waiting to get in, then you know it is time to do an MCO so that we can have some breathing space.
“MCOs should be the last resort response. We cannot have it all the time as it causes lots of suffering,” he stressed.
When the first lockdown was implemented in March 2020, the whole nation stopped. The numbers and data reported in the past year on the socioeconomic impact were huge.
“Now, many of us are suffering from pandemic fatigue. There is also community anxiety and paranoia. Another pressing issue is the hesitancy to get the vaccine.”
Vaccine is the exit strategy
Dr Suresh presented on the topic ‘Covid Vaccines: The Controversies’. He assured there was enough data that showed Covid-19 vaccines prevented hospitalisation and severe disease.
According to him, about 19 million people are getting vaccinated every day, and many of these vaccines are happening in western countries.
“And so, we get excellent data on its efficacy, side effects and so on. Also, based on it, doctors are now more prepared and can warn and treat accordingly post-vaccination.
“Usually, the second shot is a bit more intense than the first shot. But after two days, you are perfectly back to normal. I’ve not seen very many people who struggle beyond the two days.”
The vaccine, said Dr Suresh, induced the immune system to overdrive to produce antibodies and cells that can fight the Covid-19 virus.
“Data shows vaccination prevents us from getting a severe disease. And even if a vaccinated person in a rare chance got infected, they will then have 50 per cent less chance of transmitting the disease.”
“The vaccines have so many benefits compared to the yield brought by the Covid-19 virus.”
Worrisome anti-vaccine sentiments
Regarding the emergence of new virulent strains and mutations, Dr Suresh assured the vaccine would still work.
“Even if it is not as efficacious, it will still prevent hospitalisation and severe complications.”
He also shared that countries with a successful vaccination programme reported a downward trend in cases. In countries with a poor vaccination programme, the numbers were going up.
“Therefore, a successful vaccination programme is our exit strategy for this pandemic.”
While initially there were some setbacks with the delay in procuring and rolling out the vaccines, he was more surprised and worried about the amount of anti-vaccine sentiments.
“It is only when a majority of the population gets vaccinated, the virus will not spread as much.”
Dr Venugopalan also emphasised the vaccines were the endgame for the pandemic.
“We must follow the SOPs. Get yourself vaccinated and encourage those who are vulnerable to get vaccinated as well. Avoid paranoia.”
The presentations by both speakers were followed by a question and answer session. The forum, held on May 1, was organised by the All Malaysia Malayalee Association (AMMA), Klang Malayalee Association (MAMANGAM), and Manipal Institute of Technology Alumni Malaysia (MITians Malaysia). — The Health