Even Frontliners May Be Vaccine Hesitant: Pakatan Harapan

The PH Immunisation Task Force calls for a vaccine confidence campaign and a “track and trace” system of each vaccine dose from storage to recipient.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 5 — The Pakatan Harapan (PH) Immunisation Task Force today urged the government to announce a comprehensive vaccine confidence campaign as soon as possible.

The Pakatan Harapan Immunisation Task Force, led by former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad, pointed out that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday did not announce a nationwide vaccine confidence campaign to convince the Malaysian public that the Covid-19 vaccines that will soon be distributed are safe and effective. 

“We cannot assume that the Malaysian public or even the frontliners are already convinced that they should take whatever vaccine which will be made available to them,” the PH Immunisation Task Force said in a statement.

“The global anti-vaccine movement has grown over time and it cannot be denied that there are ‘anti-vaxxer’ groups in Malaysia who would not want to take any Covid-19 vaccine and may convince their friends to also not take the vaccine.

“In this age of fake news, the voices of anti-vaxxers can easily be amplified online.”

In India, as the Covid-19 vaccine rollout is taking place, it was seen that there were doctors who refused to take the Covid-19 vaccine, citing adverse reactions among the staff who took the vaccine. The United States is also facing similar vaccine hesitancy problems among health care workers in nursing homes and hospitals.

The immunisation taskforce pointed out that there are many people who are not anti-vaxxers with concerns regarding the vaccines available.

They also said that it is crucial to show clearly the science and efficacy rate of the coronavirus vaccines that will be used in Malaysia, as a vast majority of Malaysians are not aware of the processes undertaken by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) before a vaccine is approved. 

“A vigorous publicity campaign featuring scientists, medical professionals, respected celebrities and other trusted personalities needs to be conducted,”  the PH Immunisation Task Force said. 

Among the vaccine deals made by Malaysia, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95 per cent, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has an efficacy rate of 92 per cent, and AstraZeneca an efficacy rate of 82 per cent. 

Among the Chinese vaccines purchased by the Malaysian government, Sinovac has mixed trial results, while CanSino has yet to release their clinical trial data.

The PH taskforce also asked for a “track and trace” system of every vaccine dose from storage to recipient to provide further assurance that there can be proper follow-up with regards to the efficacy of each vaccine for each individual who has been vaccinated. 

“In addition, this will also prevent the use of fake vaccines and fake vaccines certificates, some of which have already been reported in certain countries.”

They also suggested a comprehensive Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI) tracking mechanism and communications strategy.

“Like any vaccine, there will be individuals who will have adverse reactions after taking it. If this is not properly addressed, the negative news arising from AEFI cases following the first batch of vaccines given to frontliners will definitely give cause for others in subsequent batches to not take any Covid-19 vaccines,” the PH immunisation task force said. 

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