No doubt you’ve heard the news: COVID-19 vaccines are coming. For Malaysia, our government has set aside around 3 billion ringgit for vaccine purchases and aimed to rollout the vaccination programme starting from March.
While it feels like there is finally light at the end of the tunnel, there are still questions about who will get it first and how do we know if it’s safe, how many doses do you need, how effective is it — and so on and so forth.
To ease your mind, we’ve done our research and list down all the answers to your vaccine-related questions.
Has the vaccine been rushed?
A common misconception is that the vaccine has been rushed – in reality, the process has been shortened due to the immense of amount of funds being invested into these trials and tests. Because of the global emergency, developing this vaccine has been prioritised by scientists, drug companies and governments, and a huge amount of collab has helped this to happen as fast as possible. The process also has been sped up by recent advances in technology.
It is said that over 800 research and development programmes are active around the world to combat this virus. Of those, 191 are focused on vaccine development. It also helped that COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus (like SARS) so scientists already knew about how coronaviruses work, including the “spikes” on the surface which can be used to trigger a reaction from the immune system.
Is the vaccine safe?
Recently, there have been huge debate which claim the vaccine will ‘alter’ your DNA – and that’s not true. The claims refer to how the vaccines work, where traditionally a vaccine will inject a weakened version of the virus, so your body can learn to produce antigens to combat the real thing. A vaccine basically trains the immune system to recognise and attack a virus, even on it hasn’t seen before. While vaccines imitate an infection, they almost never cause illness. Vaccines also protect the community by reducing the spread of disease among people. This protection is known as herd, or community, immunity.
However, the COVID-19 vaccine simply delivers this genetic information directly to your cells, without altering your DNA. Consultant in Internal and Respiratory Medicine, The Lung Centre of Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Dr Helmy Haja Mydin states that “the vaccine has been proven to be safe for general use and is particularly important to protect those with underlying chronic diseases. It also adds a layer of protection for services that are essential to keep the country going.”
For a broader look, the World Health Organizations has introductory explainers into both how vaccines are developed and how they work, plus the Centers for Disease Control has more information about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines and mRNA vaccines in particular, the kind both Moderna and Pfizer have developed.
How long does the vaccine last?
Doctors and researchers don’t know exactly how long the protection will last yet, because the vaccines haven’t been around for long enough. The second dose is more important for longer-lasting protection, so it’s really important to go back for your second dose when you are invited for it.
The length of protection may vary between different vaccines. It is likely to be at least several months, but it may be that repeat vaccinations are needed. Researchers are studying this closely.
Do I need the vaccine if I’ve had the virus?
Yes. The vaccine will reduce your risk of another infection and the seriousness of your symptoms if you do get it again. At the moment, it is unclear whether having the virus will give a person full immunity because there have been some reports of people getting re-infected.
Therefore, it is encouraged that even people who have had the infection to take the vaccine to ensure complete immunity. However, it will likely be that those who are COVID-free are prioritised over the ones who have had the virus.
Will I be able to pass on the virus to others if I’ve had the vaccine?
The doctors don’t yet know for sure, but it may be possible for you to pass the virus on even if you’ve been vaccinated. The vaccines work by causing your body to create a rapid immune response to the virus so it doesn’t make you ill, but may not stop you from passing the virus on. So even if you’ve been vaccinated, it’s really important to follow guidelines around social distancing, hand washing and other guidance to stop the spread of coronavirus. You’ll still need to self-isolate if you have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has.
Are there any side effects?
Like any other vaccines, the coronavirus vaccine may have mild side effects, but this should not worry you. They are just your body’s natural immune response. The common short-term side effects include soreness at the site of injection, a low-grade fever, headaches, muscle aches and fatigue, lasting around 12 to 36 hours after the injection,
However, the rapid development of the vaccine meant that scientists are unable to study long-term effects, so understanding these effects will require additional follow-ups in the future
Which vaccine will I get?
Our government has obtained vaccines from few brands such as Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, WHO Covax facility, Sinovac, CanSinoBIO and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
Which vaccine is better?
All the currently approved vaccines have been shown to be safe and to work well at preventing disease from the virus. The studies of effectiveness have measured them in different ways, so it isn’t necessarily helpful to compare them. Serious side effects are very rare in all of the approved vaccines.
According to Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, you won’t be able to choose which vaccine to have, so it’s important to have the vaccine you are offered.
You won’t be able to choose which vaccine you will get. All vaccines approved by NPRA @KKMPutrajaya are safe and efficacious. At the moment only Pfizer has been approved. AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Sinovac are currently being evaluated. Website to be launched on Tuesday w/ FAQs. https://t.co/AfwaymNo6E
— Khairy Jamaluddin 🇲🇾🌺 (@Khairykj) February 14, 2021
Whichever vaccine you are offered, it will have been through all the safety processes and will have been carefully reviewed and approved by our regulatory agency, the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA). There will be further research to look at how best to use the different vaccines. At the moment, there isn’t any evidence that any one vaccine is better than another for people with specific conditions, such as heart disease.
Do I have to pay for it?
The government will provide the vaccines for free to all Malaysians and it’s not compulsory. While it is completely voluntary, the vaccination is strongly encouraged for all.
When can I expect to get the vaccine?
Malaysia has set up a special committee in October last year to fortify vaccine procurement in a transparent manner while giving priority to the national immunisation campaign called Jaminan Akses Bekalan Vakcin COVID-19 (JKJAV). You can follow them on Twitter here for the latest updates.
The first batch of vaccines is expected to be received by end of February, with the first group to be vaccinated by early March and the vaccination programme implemented in phases over a period of 18 months.
The government aims to kick-start the vaccination programme by immuninising 75,00 people a day across 600 vaccinations sites nationwide from March. This is equivalent to 12,500 per hour in a six-hour day, or five people simultaneously taking jabs at each of the sites, based on a target of 15 minutes per person.
Currently, here’s the timeline of the vaccination schedule:
PHASE 1 (February – April 2021)
Frontliners (public and private healthcare workers), frontline personnel in essential and defence services
PHASE 2 (April – August 2021)
9.4 million people
The rest of the staff in healthcare, essential and defence services; the elderly (aged 65 years and above); high-risk groups with chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure; people with disabilities (OKU)
PHASE 3 (May 2021 – February 2022)
13.7 million people (or more)
Residents aged 18 and above (citizens and non-citizens*). Priority will be given to those in the red, yellow and then green zones (in that order).
*Non-citizens include diplomats, expatriates, students, foreign spouses and children, foreign workers & UNHCR card holders.
Where are vaccination sites?
There is no breakdown on where the vaccination process will take place yet. According to Minister of Science, Technology & Innovation, Khairy Jamaluddin, there are 600 identified vaccination sites, comprise Ministry of Health (MoH) hospitals and public health clinics, university hospitals, Malaysian Armed Forces hospitals and clinics, private general practitioner clinic and private health care facilities.
Where do I sign up for vaccination registration and appointment?
Registration for the vaccine, which will start on the 1st of March 2021, will be implemented through the following methods:
- Through the MySejahtera application
- Hotline (soon-to-be launched)
- Outreach programme for rural and interior areas
- Through the website vaksincovid.gov.my
- Registration at public and private health facilities
How does the vaccination process work?
JKJAV has provided an infographic on how the process of the vaccination works for us to understand better. Refer to it below:
Disclaimer: We are not professional medical researchers nor are we doctors. These are our own findings through reliable professional medical sites. If you need more information regarding COVID-19 vaccines in Malaysia, click here. Or you can click go to our Minister of Science, Technology & Innovation, Khairy Jamaluddin’s website for the update on vaccine procurement through this link.