We have come to the end of 2021, and time was like a blur for the past two years.
From the moment Covid-19 cases surfaced in parts of China, which was then classified as nCoV2019, moving swiftly across nations in early January 2020, many of us were caught unawares.
I can still recall tracking these initial cases when it hit Singapore, and inevitably crept over into Malaysia on January 25, 2020. Soon after, we had cases coming from many other countries. We have read of how places like Italy and Spain were ravaged by the virus and registered thousands of deaths daily.
Sadly, many people lost their lives to the virus in Italy and Spain in those early months of 2020. Hospital resources were taxed to the point that doctors had to make a grim choice of who gets admitted to the ICU, especially in Italy.
At the same time, Malaysia was facing ever-rising Covid-19 cases. We seemed to have come out of the woods at one point, but suddenly, cases climbed up again in the latter part of 2020.
And 2021 came around, we entered another lockdown, which would prove to be disastrous for many individuals and families. This resulted in the Bendera Putih or white flag initiative in July 2021, when the people stepped up to help those in need around them. This initiative made full use of social media as a network of sorts.
As for Covid-19 cases, by August 26, 2021, Malaysia hit a high of 24,599 new cases with 393 deaths, out of which, 100 were brought-in-dead (BID) cases.
Concurrently, the vaccination programme had been ongoing from the early months of 2021, but it was initially focused on frontliners (medical and non-medical), before being extended to senior citizens, and eventually to the rest of the population above 18 years old.
However, the rollout was sluggish, and many were asking why they had not gotten their appointments yet, even before the critical August 2021 period.
When video clips showing Covid patients jamming up the wards and overflowing into corridors shows up online, the government responded with Operation Surge Capacity, which was a dedicated vaccination programme starting in the Klang Valley in mid-July 2021, and was soon extended to seven other states by September 2021.
Soon after, Covid-19 cases and deaths finally came down, albeit after a time gap of at least two weeks post-vaccination, for immune systems to kick in and elevate antibody levels.
Conferring protection via vaccination is a form of actively acquired immunity, which is in contrast to when a person heals on their own, which results in natural immunity.
There has been some debate in some countries on whether one can depend fully on natural immunity instead of vaccination. Currently, the view is that vaccines are better than natural immunity
As for Malaysia, we battled through the Delta variant, but we are now facing the Omicron variant. This has resulted in a robust push for booster shots for all Malaysians, culminating in a mandate of sorts, which stipulates that you get your booster shot by February 2022, or risk losing your fully vaccinated status.
This February 2022 deadline is targeted at those above 60 years old, and those who had taken Sinovac vaccines for their primary shots. Waning immunity is now the accepted scenario with regard to Covid-19 vaccines.
The government feels that many are dragging their feet with regard to taking the booster shots, but is that the full story? The current takeup of vaccines in Malaysia comprises 55.6 per cent Pfizer, 36.6 per cent Sinovac, 7.3 per cent Astrazeneca, and 0.4 per cent Cansino, as of December 22, 2021.
This translates into millions of people who have taken Sinovac for their primary shots, and would naturally prefer Sinovac booster shots as well. Many have chosen to reject their given MySejahtera appointments because they know many of the current vaccination centres only give Pfizer as the booster. Many people are concerned about the mixing-and-matching of SInovac and Pfizer vaccines.
In all honesty, the government can easily increase the booster takeup by allowing Sinovac boosters to be offered at the vaccination centres as well. Let the people take their booster shot of choice.
But to impose a deadline of February 2022 is certainly unfair. Many have resorted to getting their Sinovac booster shots at private clinics at a cost. This used to be RM99, but has since risen to RM148, or even RM160, depending on location.
As Dr Boo Cheng Hau has said: “Now, their only option is to go to other private clinics that offer Sinovac with certain charges, which I don’t think is fair to them.”
Booster shots certainly are the way forward to counter this ever-present virus. But we plead to the government to listen to the people. Offer both Sinovac and Pfizer (and eventually AstraZeneca) booster shots, and we will certainly do our part, moving forward.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.