The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (AMM) supports the statement made by the health minister on December 16, 2021, emphasising the need for a third vaccine dose as per the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation.
This announcement was made specifically for selected individuals in high-risk categories such as senior citizens above 60 years old and Sinovac primary series vaccine recipients aged above 18 years old.
According to Malaysia’s CovidNow database, 40 per cent of the eligible adult population is still unboosted.
The public is equally responsible for battling the Omicron wave.
We urge the public to understand the government’s plan to reinforce this public health intervention, which is not meant to be a coercion but is intended to confer population-level immunity in battling the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Three Doses Versus Two Doses Of Vaccines Against Omicron
The urgency to reach a high booster coverage is part of the nation’s Covid-19 pandemic management strategy to allow the public to continue to preserve their social and economic sector privileges without being curbed by a lockdown.
A preliminary study conducted by the Africa Health Research Institute concluded that the Omicron variant demonstrated an ‘escape mechanism’ in recipients of two doses of mRNA vaccine, underscoring its inadequacy in building protection.
This signifies the role of boosters to counter waning immunity conferred by the initial two-dose primary vaccination series.
The latest press release by the Ministry of Health reiterates the need to be vaccinated and boosted to reduce serious complications and deaths by Covid-19, as well as to avoid overwhelming our health care system.
However, we urge the government to also reinforce their crisis communication efforts to reduce vaccine complacency among our rakyat and allow a reasonable timeframe for selected individuals from these high-risk categories to receive their booster doses without feeling pressured.
We further urge the government to improve access to the country’s booster roll-out by deploying more mobile vaccination programmes particularly for vulnerable senior citizens in nursing homes and remote areas, and to ensure at least 70 per cent of the country’s adult population is boosted.
We seek increased public understanding and trust in the government’s plan against the Omicron wave, where we are currently back to single and double-digit death toll figures, despite the current surging new Covid-19 cases numbering five digits.
Vaccine hesitancy is a challenge to the government’s plan to effectively battle the Omicron wave, especially when the caseload is expected to increase exponentially over the coming weeks.
We need to ensure our responsibilities are aligned with the government’s efforts to achieve optimum protection for all, regardless of age and socioeconomic status. Lindungi diri, lindungi semua.
Prof Dr Rosmawati Mohamed is from the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (AMM).
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