By Syamimi Syaza
Registration for the AstraZeneca vaccine was open for Kuala Lumpur and Selangor residents on 2 May 2021 starting noon on a first come-first served basis.
Following the high cases of COVID-19 in the area, the public were quick to decide on registering for the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, causing overwhelming website traffic due to massive interest, which resulted in frustrated social media rants from those who could not book their slots.
The AstraZeneca vaccines are opted for as many as 268,000 people aged 18 and above with high efficiency from clinical trials conducted in the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa and the United States showing its effectiveness in preventing severe illness, hospitalisation and death due to COVID-19. Besides, the newly notable vaccine is approved by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) against COVID-19 infection despite common side effects such as injection site pain or tenderness, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, fever and chills.
The centres designated for the vaccination include Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur and the Ideal Convention Centre Shah Alam (IDCC) which are reachable for everyone residing in KL and Selangor. As a person is considered fit by the doctor for the vaccination upon the appointment, they should expect the following dose 12 weeks after the first one. Otherwise, they will be placed in the former queue of the mainstream vaccination programme. The AstraZeneca vaccine is proved to prevent symptomatic disease 21 days after the first dose with at least 76.7 percent efficiency followed by at least 90 days protection after the jab.
Youths especially, are expressing their joy and celebration in succeeding to register for the vaccine despite having to refresh the websites numerous times. It is promising how herd immunity is able to be achieved observing from the huge response and competency of KL and Selangor residents in securing their slots. However, some are stating their disappointment on how the slots are based on luck and internet connection, despising the struggles just to get vaccinated.
Following this, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Khairy Jamaluddin through his Twitter account clarified that Malaysia is scheduled to receive a million more doses this month while ensuring those without Internet access are able to sign up as well.
Questions are being raised on the significance of the first come-first served basis for the AZ vaccine instead of including it along with the other vaccines in the main pool for vaccination. This is due to the public hesitancy towards the said vaccine, thus the offer is opened for those volunteering aged 18 years old and above.
The issue raised is the report of a small number of blood clot occurrence in a few countries such as Netherlands, Australia and Denmark. However, UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and EMA’s safety committee stated that the benefits of the jab certainly outweigh the potential risks which are extremely rare. According to MHRA, the risk of blood clot from the jab is approximately four in a million and it is worth noting that COVID-19 itself carries a significant risk of blood clot, according to a study.
Trials conducted exhibit that AZ vaccine is a bit less protective compared to other vaccines. For instance, Pfizer is capable of preventing symptomatic disease 95% of the time while AZ works 70% of the time. Nevertheless, AZ vaccine might actually work better than Pfizer to prevent serious disease and hospitalisation, based on recent real-world data from the UK.
So, whether AstraZeneca is more or less effective is not truly clear yet. It is more crucial to note that all authorised vaccines are safe and provide excellent level of protection against COVID-19.
The government is securing all possible opportunities in providing vaccines to everyone and the public is showing very much interest to ease this hard-earned progress. The on-going vaccination programme is going on well with second dosage being administered without complication.
Concerns raised are valid, however, more factual counters are being spread to educate the public on the right information without depending on unreliable talk and baseless news. Malaysians are able to fight for the betterment of our country as long as general advantages are considered instead of personal gains regardless of statuses.
A hashtag of “CucukMYAZ” was trending on social media platform Twitter on the first day of vaccination as netizens expressed their positive experiences in getting vaccinated, mainly due to the excellent management flow at the designated venues. Previous concerns of the reliability of the vaccine are declining following the constructive reviews on the first day which is expected to escalate day by day.
Malaysia is taking a great measure in ensuring top-tier healthcare for everyone, despite criticism and unavoidable remarks solely asking the higher authorities to iron out their priorities and attention to the right group of people for the betterment of our country.***