Red flags were raised when 204 out of 453 personnel at the Ideal Convention Centre vaccination centre (PPV) in Shah Alam were infected with Covid-19. 88 per cent of them were reported to be vaccinated.
Many of the concerns would be immediately allayed if the minister concerned had informed that none or a miniscule number of them suffered from Covid-19 severe enough to require to be hospitalised. And that all of the personnel had very low virus counts in their upper airways and were therefore virtually non-infectious.
Instead, he chose to be medically savvy and said that the CT (Cycle Threshold) values were above 35, and that the viral load was low.
For the less informed (which I suspect includes all of the lay public and a considerable proportion of health care workers), CT values above 30 are associated with a low viral load, and the person is considered as non-infectious.
There is a caveat though; a proportion of infected persons can be in the early phase of the disease, and are initially asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, only to exhibit signs later and become infectious. Therefore, all the more reason for them to be quarantined to protect against this potential eventuality.
I hope the authorities would be wiser and smarter in their management and risk communication, concerning the more recent outbreak at the Setia City Convention Centre (SCCC) PPV, also in Shah Alam.
A friend and his immune-compromised spouse who were at the SCCC PPV were very concerned. Since they were there for their second AstraZeneca shot, I reassured them with the following message:
“Since you would very likely practise your SOPs, you guys are virtually zero risk. It is the PPV personnel who are at most at risk, since they are more likely to be closer together, eat, chat, smoke together, and some of them may actually be unvaccinated. Your first AstraZeneca dose would confer you both (maybe less so for your spouse) with 85 per cent protection against being hospitalised with the Alpha variant, and 83 per cent protection against being hospitalised with either the Beta and Gamma variants.”
After all, isn’t this the raison d’etre of the Covid-19 vaccines? The vaccines are designed to prevent serious illnesses, hospitalisations, ICU admissions, and deaths. These are the very sequelae of serious Covid-19 that will lead to the overwhelming of the national health care capacity.
This was borne out in the Ministry of Health (MOH) report on breakthrough infections. Only 3,106 (1.26 per cent) of the 245,932 health care workers who had mostly received Pfizer vaccines, were infected.
The majority of these were Categories One and Two infections, and were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms. There were three cases each in Categories Three and Four that required hospital care (0.2 per cent), and there were no Category Five cases, nor were any deaths reported.
All 751 staff members in our hospital were immunised with the Pfizer vaccine. There were 13 breakthrough infections (1.73 per cent), and all of them were in Category Two, and none required hospitalisation.
A total of 10,262 (0.01 per cent) vaccine breakthrough infections has been reported in the US as of April 30. Approximately 101 million Americans had been fully vaccinated.
Unlike the MOH or our hospital which picks up virtually all cases of breakthrough infections, the US numbers are significantly under-reported since the national surveillance system depends on passive and voluntary reporting.
Preliminary data showed that 2,725 (27 per cent) of the breakthrough infections were asymptomatic. A total of 995 (10 per cent) patients were hospitalised, with 289 (29 per cent) asymptomatic or hospitalised for a reason unrelated to Covid-19.
A total of 160 (2 per cent) patients died, and 28 (18 per cent) of these were asymptomatic or died from a cause unrelated to Covid-19. The median age of patients who died was 82 years old.
Genomic sequences were available from 555 (5 per cent) cases, and 356 (64 per cent) were identified as having variants of concern.
The Singapore MOH reported that for those fully vaccinated, 158 persons were infected. Two (1.3 per cent) of them, both with pre-existing illnesses, required oxygen supplementation, and none required ICU care.
In Thailand, 618 (0.09 per cent) out of 677,348 health care workers who received two doses of Sinovac became infected. The news report only mentioned a single death, with another health care worker in critical condition.
All this emphasises the fact that the vaccines are effective. The rate of infection has declined among those vaccinated. Virtually all of those hospitalised for or dying from Covid-19 are the unimmunised.
There is a powerful message here for all Malaysians, notably those who are vaccine-hesitant or reluctant. The overwhelming majority of cases are now seen among the unvaccinated.
Covid-19 has now become the pandemic of the unimmunised.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.