Sarawakians Should Be Given A Choice To Be Vaccinated With The AZ Vaccine

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Press Statement By Julian Tan:

Sarawak’s Government urged to reconsider the offer for AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine. A few days ago, the Sarawak’s Government rejected the federal Government’s offer to set up Special Vaccine Dispensing Centres (PPVs) in Sarawak for AstraZeneca vaccination. We have just missed the opportunity to get more Sarawakians to be vaccinated given our increasingly worrying condition on the spread of COVID19 in Sarawak.

We all need to play our part, especially political leaders, to be more responsible in addressing public fear to overcome vaccine hesitancy. We need to raise public awareness via proven scientific data.

To reject the AstraZeneca vaccine followed by some political leaders calling those who like to have the AZ vaccine to go over to Selangor and KL instead, without proper explanation, is unwarranted. We already face the challenge of an overabundance of false and potentially harmful misinformation on COVID19 vaccination. What we need to do instead is to help stop the unfounded fear in vaccination.

The safety and efficacy of the AZ vaccines and the benefits far outweigh its risk of developing blood clots. The risk of blood clots by taking the AZ vaccine is only four out of one million vaccinated (0.0004%) compared to 165’000 cases out of one million infected with COVID-19 (16.5%). Even smokers have a much higher risk of blood clots at 1’763 cases out of one million (0.18%).

According to the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), the latest clinical trials, which include 57’000 people, found that the AZ vaccine to be safe and effective in protects both the elderly and younger adults. There were 81% fewer Covid-19 cases in vaccinated people than in unvaccinated ones. During the clinical trials, no one who got the vaccine was admitted to the hospital due to Covid-19. The Australian Government has secured 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Simply put, is far better to be vaccinated with AZ than to go down with Covid. Most if not all European countries have continued the use of AZ vaccines after taking risk assessments.

Yesterday, Sarawak having rejected the AZ vaccines, all the available 268’000 AZ vaccine slots were all taken up within 3 hours in Selangor and KL. Malaysia is scheduled to receive a million doses this month via COVAX, co-led by the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization (WHO). The operation, including the setting up of special vaccination centres (PPVs), will be expanded to all states except Sarawak, which has declined the offer.

Many Sarawakians, especially those on the 3rd phase, which are of the low-risk category, are anxious to get vaccinated quickly. Many are still anxiously waiting for their turns. Why are we depriving them of the chance to choose to be vaccinated via the AZ vaccine? Since we still do not have enough vaccines to go about, why waste them? Again, there is no harm to having extra Special Vaccination Centres (PPVs) set up in Sarawak. It can help to speed up the vaccination program, especially with the already available AZ vaccines. We have already lost all our ‘green zone,’ and now we are more ‘red’ than ever.

The question that often asks, which vaccines are the best? The best vaccine is the first one that you can get hold of NOW. It is not how effective the vaccines protect us from being infected by the virus, but how effectively each vaccine protects us against severe disease and dying from the virus, which we will end up in the hospital and Intensive Care Unit (ICU). For comparison, AstraZeneca or Pfizer, is so far proven to be 100% effective in protecting us from severe disease.

Julian Tan
Special Assistant to YB Chong Chieng Jen
2021-05-03