February 25, 2021 | Written By: Nurul Afiqah
In January 2021, the Ministry of Health (MOH) stated that Malaysia has decided to purchase an additional 12.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, on top of 12.8 million doses already lined up. This is due to the exponential growth of the COVID-19 pandemic that leads the government to reinforce the movement control orders in most states in our country.
The decision is expected to assist Malaysia in providing an adequate COVID-19 vaccine for Malaysians in the initial phase of this injection. Each individual needs two doses of vaccine. Malaysia will also receive 6.4 million doses of vaccine produced by AstraZeneca (Britain-Sweden) as well as an expected supply of another 6.4 million from COVAX (World Health Organization). The question is, will the COVID-19 vaccine be able to bring back a normal life as before this pandemic?
Will The Vaccine Return Us A Normal Life?
Do you still remember your life at the time before this COVID-19 era? Surely, you miss the life before the COVID-19 pandemic era where we are all free to do daily activities such as going out to the office, spending time with friends and shaking hands with each other. Once the COVID-19 vaccine was discovered, most people became excited and considered this vaccine as a "golden ticket" to return to normal life. Will this happen?
In an interview with the press, the President of the Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association denied the assumption and said that the vaccine only helps a person to reduce the critical level of infection. Malaysia is the third Southeast Asian country to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Thus, we are considered one of the earliest countries in the Southeast Asian region to get the vaccine. The 2 countries in the same region that have received the vaccine before Malaysia are Singapore and Indonesia. Singapore has large financial funds and they have already made reservations in advance. Meanwhile, Indonesia got the supply early because the country agreed to become a testing ground for a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine.
Furthermore, the director of the Clinical Research Centres of the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) explained that one dose of Pfizer BioNtech vaccine is known to provide only partial protection, while the second dose provides almost 95 percent protection. Partial protection means that an individual still has a 50 percent chance of getting a COVID-19 infection after receiving the first vaccine.
Other than that, clinical data also showed that the human body's immune system takes between six to eight weeks to produce enough antibodies to fight against COVID-19 infection. Therefore, individuals who have been vaccinated do not have the maximum immunity to COVID-19 after the first dose injection and there is a possibility of being infected with the same virus but with low symptoms. This vaccine is not 100 percent effective and makes you immune to COVID-19. However, the risk of infection will continue to decrease as more people in the community get vaccinated.
In short, the public should not underestimate the safety guidelines of COVID-19 even after being vaccinated. Wearing a face mask and maintaining social distance is very important until the country achieves full immunity.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), COVID-19 immunization will be an important tool to help reduce the rate of transmission of the COVID-19. Wearing a mask and practicing social distancing can help reduce your risk of getting the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures alone are not enough. Vaccines will work to make your body's immune system ready to fight the virus. The current vaccine is mainly to protect the community from the complications of the infection. It has yet to be proven to have the ability to block virus transmission. Therefore, an individual who has been vaccinated is protected from serious complications but still can carry the virus and has the potential to infect others. However, most scientists believe that the COVID-19 vaccine can reduce the viral load in individuals who have been given an injection, which may reduce the rate of transmission.
The development of the COVID-19 vaccine requires tremendous effort. This has shown how scientific development can be achieved so quickly through collaborative hard work, and how much desire can realize dreams. During 2020, 61 vaccines were created, although some are still in clinical trials, while some report an effectiveness rate of more than 90% against COVID-19 infection.
Physicians around the world say it is important for all of us to realize that vaccine production will take some time and with high demand from all over the world, there will be no "immediate change" in our society. There are also predictions saying that most likely we will enter the middle of 2021 before we can get any noticeable changes.
Meanwhile, the director of the Clinical Research Centres of the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) said, in his opinion, to return life back to normal, will take about 12 to 24 months. This is because after an individual is vaccinated, the individual is not immune to the virus but only reduces the critical level of infection. There is a possibility of re-infection, but the severity of the infection is predicted to decline.
Scientists, public health physicians and experts have all warned the public not to underestimate social distancing and the use of face masks. The effects of the COVID-19 vaccine may take some time to be proven effective. Even if you have already get vaccinated, you should continue to follow the new norms until the community successfully builds herd immunity.
Other than that, you are also advised to always take good care of your health by strengthening the body's immune system during this pandemic. This includes practicing a balanced diet, having adequate sleep and do exercise regularly.
Overall, physicians expect that 2021 will be better than 2020. However, will we return to normal life? Will we feel safe enough to board a plane, watch a movie or shop in a crowded area?
The answer may be different for each individual. One of the factors is how long it will take for the area where you live to get at least up to 70% of the population vaccinated.
Experts also find that it is difficult to predict the condition even with the presence of this vaccine because there are various possibilities that may change the situation, such as whether an advanced viral mutation will make the vaccine less effective or if many residents rejected the COVID-19 vaccine causing us to be unable to build the “herd immunity”.
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