Photo via USC News
The National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme is finally set to roll out come March, with the first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines set to arrive in Malaysia on Sunday (February 21st).
To many, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from the US, which has a 95% efficacy rate, is the “right” vaccine to take.
But people need to understand that this statement is false, and that they only believe this is true because this vaccine was just the first one to make international headlines last year.
The Health Ministry (MOH) has assured that all the different vaccines being supplied to Malaysia are completely safe, and has urged Malaysians not to be picky.
As of February 2021, Malaysia has had access to a supply of 66.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility and early purchases from five COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers.
The FIVE vaccines are:
- Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine
- AstraZeneca vaccine
- Sinovac vaccine
- CanSinoBIO vaccine
- Vaccine Sputnik V
Photo via JKJAV
The efficacy level varies according to the way clinical studies are conducted, the type of vaccine, the risk of disease in volunteers and various other factors.
Although the efficacy level varies, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has prescribed that the minimum level of efficacy for the COVID-19 vaccine is 50%. All vaccines approved by NPRA are safe and efficacious for use in Malaysia.
Of the five vaccine manufacturers, the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech has obtained conditional approval from the Drug Control Authority (PBKD) and the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Division (NPRA) on January 8th, 2021.
Director of MOH’s Clinical Research Institute, Dr Kalaiarasu M. Peariasamy explained that all the vaccines procured by the government have more than 50 per cent efficacy, which is acceptable within WHO's minimum requirement.
“For example, one vaccine has a 62 per cent efficacy. That does not mean it is bad, it means it offers a reduction of the disease severity or the symptoms in that trial.
“But when you roll the vaccine out in the public, then it becomes effective in containing the disease. This is the preventive part where you vaccinate people — and as more people receive the vaccine, the less likely they are to get the disease,” he said.
Dr Kalaiarasu added that trials to mix and match different vaccines are currently underway in the United Kingdom, and that it is important to secure better evidence of the efficacy of the vaccines if they are mixed.
“Sometimes, people forget what vaccine they were given the first time around, and are given a different vaccine when they return for their follow-up shot. We know there is protection in the short term, but what about the midterm and long term?” he said.
All in all, Dr Kalaiarasu insisted that further research needs to be done but in the meantime, it is not advisable to say, “I want a certain vaccine over the other” when being allocated one.
Meanwhile, you can find out how to register for the programme here
And don’t forget to check out our other vaccine-related articles, as well as all things COVID-19
Please continue to follow SOPs and stay safe, people!
by Kyle Roshen Jacob