KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Six Members of Parliament across the aisle have agreed to get immunised against Covid-19, amid their efforts to combat misinformation on the coronavirus vaccine.
These MPs are Deputy Health Minister and Bagan Serai MP Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali; former deputy health minister and Gopeng MP Dr Lee Boon Chye; Lumut MP Dr Hatta Ramli; Kuala Langat MP Dr Xavier Jayakumar; Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Radin, and Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali told CodeBlue that he will take a Covid-19 vaccine approved by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA).
“If NPRA gives the green light…why not? But I’m not in the real frontliners,” Dr Noor Azmi said, as the government is planning to first immunise one million Malaysians, mainly frontliners and people with chronic diseases.
The National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) has given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine conditional approval, allowing the shot to be used in Malaysia. Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said yesterday that the NPRA was requesting detailed information from Pfizer, after Norway reported the deaths of 23 people aged 80 years and above that were linked to the Pfizer jab.
Dr Noor Azmi also said that it should not just be a bipartisan political effort in combating vaccine misinformation, but it is everyone’s individual responsibility to get the right information on the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Don’t listen to anyone not authorised on vaccines,” said the Bagan Serai MP from Bersatu.
“Not only bipartisan, but all should be alert, careful about berita palsu. Every Malaysian is responsible to fight those who simply spread unsure news on vaccines. There are many ways to check the truth of a [piece of] news. MOH via the Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) is the best source.”
CodeBlue recently published a statement by 20 scientists, doctors, and concerned individuals that highlighted the importance of taking the Covid-19 vaccine, as well as the alarming amount of misinformation on the coronavirus vaccine that has been circulating all over social media.
Dr Adham told CodeBlue that the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, the Ministry of Health (MOH), and the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) will be releasing information on TV and social media on the benefits of taking the coronavirus vaccine.
“We are fine tuning about which frontliner should go first,” Dr Adham told CodeBlue when asked if he would also be taking a Covid-19 vaccine after NPRA’s approval.
Dr Lee Will Lead By Taking Covid-19 Vaccine
Dr Lee, former deputy health minister under the Pakatan Harapan administration, said that he will take the Covid-19 vaccine to reduce vaccine misinformation in his constituency of Gopeng in Perak.
“I shall lead by receiving the vaccine jab,” Dr Lee told CodeBlue.
“I will take the vaccine even though I would have preferred inactivated virus vaccine, rather than mRNA vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna because mRNA technology is unproven and has never been used as vaccines or even as therapeutics.”
Dr Lee is incorrect as mRNA technology has been used as therapeutics since 2012 to treat patients with cancers, inherited immunodeficiencies, metabolic, eye, neuro-muscular diseases, even hypercholesterolemia.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that Malaysia has procured for 20 per cent of the population is an mRNA vaccine which gives instructions to the cells to make a harmless piece of the spike protein found on the surface of the Covid-19 virus.
The immune system recognises that the protein doesn’t belong in the body and begins to build an immune response, making antibodies against the protein like what happens in a natural Covid-19 infection.
Besides that, Dr Lee also said the government’s decision to make a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with Pfizer was a mistake. With an NDA, the government cannot disclose the amount paid to the pharmaceutical company to procure Covid-19 vaccines, which has also led to doubts among the public.
“As a government, transparency is paramount except for national defence and strategic weapons procurement.”
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy, who is the co-chairperson of the Covid-19 Vaccine Supplies Access Guarantee Special Committee (JKJAV), hinted last month that Malaysia got a better and cheaper deal for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot than the European Union (EU), after a Belgian minister leaked the prices paid by the EU for various Covid-19 vaccines.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament released a statement that PAC members were satisfied with MOSTI’s and MOH’s explanation in a briefing on Malaysia’s Covid-19 vaccine procurement.
Dr Hatta: Vaccine Is Not Dangerous; Covid-19 Infection Is
Lumut MP and trained medical doctor Dr Hatta Ramli told CodeBlue that he is all for the Covid-19 vaccine, saying also that Malaysia can learn a few things from the implementation of the coronavirus immunisation programme in other countries.
“I would definitely take the shot if allowed, but as a matter of principle, I don’t want to deprive those in the frontline from getting the privilege of having the vaccine first,” Dr Hatta said.
“I don’t consider leaders like us as the real frontliners, but if politicians getting the shot first would help build confidence among the public, then why not?”
The Amanah lawmaker from Perak also said that the onus is on the government to produce full explanations on the theory, logic, and practice of vaccination, complete with religio-cultural views and facts to address fear among vaccine naysayers and critics. He observed that there are still debates raging out there surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Not everything must be politicised,” Dr Hatta said.
“We must not be seen as opposition just because we asked for transparency and good governance in the planning, procurement, and implementation of the immunisation programme. After all, we are dealing with taxpayers’ money. A preventive programme needs the support of everyone.
“I am made to understand that the government has developed communication plans which hopefully will bring a converging view on the benefits of immunisation among the rakyat. The public at large is now aware that Covid-19 is a health threat and without the immunisation programme, we may not be able to curb it.
“We must instill into the public that the vaccine is not dangerous, but the infection is.”
Dr Yii Wants Weekly Vaccination Reports
Dr Kelvin Yii, who chairs the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on health, science and innovation, said that once the Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out, the government should publish data on the number of individuals vaccinated and reported side effects on a weekly basis.
“The minister has announced that they are using MySejahtera to track even symptoms and side effects, adverse effects of the vaccine,” Dr Yii said.
“I believe those reports should be published transparently — the amount of vaccine doses inoculated — on a weekly basis so that the public can see and have more confidence on it.”
Khairy said recently that the general public can register through MySejahtera for Covid-19 immunisation, besides using the government contact tracing app to report side effects following vaccination.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday announced a near impossible one-year target to immunise nearly 27 million people, or more than 80 per cent of the Malaysian population, by March 2022. The first phase of the Covid-19 vaccination programme is expected to start this March.
Dr Yii is pushing for a monthly report on the national Covid-19 vaccination strategy by MOH and MOSTI to the PSC he leads, saying public confidence and acceptance of the vaccine can be increased with legislative scrutiny.
“Basically, a lot of people have called me up. I have been talking to different groups in my constituency to explain to them what my view on the vaccine and how I see it as an important element in curbing the spread of the virus,” added the Bandar Kuching MP.
Dr Yii also urged the government to step up and to start educating the public on Covid-19 vaccines, and not just on Covid-safe standard operating procedures (SOPs).
“For me, it is very important that there’s proper information and education, particularly from now onwards, to educate the public on the importance and the science behind the vaccine, especially to counter misinformation and certain propaganda by certain groups, especially the anti-vaxxers.”
The government targets to vaccinate at least 70 per cent of the population to achieve herd immunity, but a survey conducted by MOH showed that only 67 per cent out of the total people sampled (212,006) said that they will accept the Covid-19 vaccine.
Dr Xavier Will Use Centre To Disseminate Vaccine Information
Kuala Langat MP Dr Xavier said that to reduce Covid-19 misinformation, he will be using his service centre to disseminate information on vaccines to the public.
The PKR lawmaker agreed to take the Covid-19 vaccine and pointed out that this should be a bipartisan agenda for the country.
“We need to increase awareness of the vaccine and send positive information (on the vaccines),” said Dr Xavier, who is also a member of the PSC on health, science, and innovation.
In Parliament last month, Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Bung volunteered to be the first Malaysian to take a Covid-19 vaccine. The Umno lawmaker is also a member of the PSC on health, science and innovation.