KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 — Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming today told Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah to clearly explain the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) study on Covid-19 vaccination among health care workers.
Ong was referring to a Facebook statement by the Health director-general on April 17 that said 40 health care workers got infected with Covid-19 after receiving the second dose of the vaccine, while 142 health care workers got infected after the first shot.
Dr Noor Hisham’s statement did not mention the vaccine efficacy rates found in the real-world MOH study, nor a comparison to the 244 unvaccinated health care workers in the study sample who got infected with Covid-19.
“I call upon DG Tan Sri Noor Hisham to explain his statement clearly and fully so that we can restore confidence in the vaccine registration and vaccine taking process. We need the national vaccination program (PICK) to be successfully rolled out for the health and economic well being of the country,” Ong said in a statement today.
The Bangi MP said that Dr Noor Hisham’s statement and media reports based on the statement made it seem like the vaccine was not effective in preventing someone from getting Covid-19.
Based on a graphic shared by the Health DG, out of the 426 health care workers with Covid-19 in MOH’s study this year, only two per cent (nine individuals) got infected more than 14 days after the second dose, seven per cent (31 individuals) got infected within 14 days after the second dose, while 33.3 per cent (142 people) got Covid-19 after the first dose.
More than half at 57 per cent (244 people) of health care workers with Covid-19 in the study were not vaccinated against the coronavirus. The Health DG did not mention which Covid-19 vaccine study participants had received.
Most health care workers in Malaysia have been inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. A recent United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study among health care personnel and other frontline workers found that mRNA vaccines, including the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, reduced the risk of Covid-19 infection by 90 per cent two or more weeks after the second dose, and by 80 per cent two or more weeks after the first dose.
Dr Noor Hisham stated that the infected health care workers in Malaysia only had less severe symptoms after vaccination and that everyone should still follow Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Several mainstream media outlets and MOH’s official Twitter account published headlines repeating the Health DG’s statement about 40 health care workers getting infected after receiving two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“One of the consequences of the DG’s statement is that it will discourage more people from registering to receive the vaccine,” Ong said.
The DAP lawmaker, in his statement, highlighted several concerning comments following the Health director-general’s Facebook post, which were mostly vaccine hesitant comments.
“In addition, the DG’s statement may also have the unintended effect of discouraging some senior citizens who have confirmed their appointments to receive the vaccine to suddenly change their minds, especially those who already have concerns about the effects after taking the first and/or second dose,” Ong said.
“Finally, the DG’s statement also would make some people blame the health care workers for not following the SOPs (standard operating procedures) whereas in actual fact, they may have gotten the virus from their medical front line duties.
“While I believe that the DG is well meaning in wanting to remind all of us that we should continue to observe the SOPs even after taking our vaccine shots, I believe that his statement could have been better explained.”
Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin responded to MOH’s tweet about 40 MOH staff getting infected with Covid-19 after receiving two vaccine doses by saying that the main aim of vaccination is to prevent severe disease and death, and that “infections can happen but at a much lower rate”.