Covid-19 is far from over. Worldwide we have surpassed 100 million cases, and tragically, more than two million people have lost their lives to the disease. These are not just numbers but people, each with a name and a story, each a great loss.
One year into this pandemic, we know what works and what saves lives – wearing masks, frequent hand washing, and physical distancing. These and other public health and social measures are absolutely critical in stopping transmission but we must also have community support, working together in solidarity with each and every person playing their part in halting the spread of the virus.
As we move into our second year of living with Covid-19, there is greater hope with the emergence of additional tools for fighting the virus.
As Malaysia has started vaccinating its frontline workers, we are very optimistic about the rollout of new, safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines, and the people of Malaysia echo that sentiment.
In a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health on Covid-19 vaccine acceptance, 67 per cent of respondents stated that they would get vaccinated once the vaccine becomes available to the wider population.
The government has taken great steps to tackle Covid-19 head on, and has made great progress regarding procurement of vaccines and planning of immunisation.
As of January 2021, the Malaysian government has announced a national target to vaccinate 80% of the adult population until February 2022. As we move forward in bringing the vaccine to the people, we must prioritise those most in need – the frontliners, particularly the health care workers who are constantly exposed, and the elderly who remain the most vulnerable.
Prioritising these groups is necessary in order to maintain health care capacity and reducing morbidity and mortality, and is in line with Malaysia’s Covid-19 National Immunisation Programme.
So far, the Malaysian government has signed agreements with Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca, the COVAX facility and other pharmaceutical companies for enough vaccine to cover the needs of the eligible population.
It is important that coverage extends to vulnerable communities, irrespective of legal status or nationality, to ensure we do not leave pockets of society unprotected as no one is safe until everyone is safe.
All of these steps mark extremely important progress, but it is critical to remember that vaccines alone won’t end the pandemic. Even once immunisation is underway and the number of people vaccinated increases, we must not let our guard down.
Current data shows that the existing Covid-19 vaccines are effective at protecting individuals against the disease, but we still don’t know if they prevent people from passing the virus to others.
Vaccines are ultimately an extremely important tool as part of our response to Covid-19, when used in combination with other evidence-based protective measures.
We encourage people in Malaysia to continue listening to their health authorities and adhere to Standard Operating Procedures introduced by the government. It is important that we all think about how the actions we take as individuals can determine our collective health.
It is also important for us to inform ourselves and others with credible, scientific and evidence-based information. This will, especially, be crucial in building vaccine confidence in Malaysia and elsewhere.
Individuals and communities in all countries have the power to influence the course of this pandemic, and the WHO will continue to work alongside Malaysia navigate through these difficult times.
We are all in this together.
Dr Takeshi Kasai is World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Khairy Jamaluddin is Malaysian Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation and co-chair of the Special Committee for Ensuring Access to COVID-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV), and Dr Adham Baba is Malaysian Minister of Health and co-chair of the Special Committee for Ensuring Access to COVID-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV).
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.