2:41pm 04/05/2021
Vaccine benefits outweigh side effects

Sin Chew Daily

There have been much controversy over the side effects of AstraZeneca vaccine here in recent days. Many who have already registered for vaccination are asking to reject AstraZeneca vaccine.

Under tremendous pressure from the public, science, technology and innovation minister Khairy Jamaluddin has decided to open for "volunteers" in Klang Valley to register for vaccination with AstraZeneca vaccine beginning May 2. Unexpectedly, the vaccine which is said could kill people was fully booked in only three hours, and the volunteers will begin to be inoculated from Wednesday.

Khairy said under the COVAX global vaccine access mechanism, Malaysia will receive one million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of this month, and the voluntary registration scheme will eventually be expanded to other states, except Sarawak which has outright rejected AstraZeneca. However, the vaccination for this particular vaccine will not be included in the national immunization program.

As such, vaccination in this country is being carried out in two distinct ways: volunteers getting vaccinated immediately after appointment, and others waiting patiently for their turns under the national immunization program.

We suggest that the government carry out both concurrently in a bid to expedite the rate of vaccination in the country in achieving the goal of "herd immunity".

Among the major vaccine manufacturers in the world, other than Pfizer/BioNTech which is rather problem-free, there have been major problems with the vaccines produced by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, with the WHO stepping in to investigate and some countries already banning their use.

AstraZeneca is a UK-Swedish biopharmaceutical manufacturer that teamed up the Oxford University last year to develop the AZD1222 vaccine which was among the earliest to be included in vaccination programs of many countries. However, after some time it was discovered that some European recipients of AstraZeneca vaccine developed blood clot symptom, and the administration of the vaccine has since been suspended in several countries such as Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Thailand.

The actual situation, nonetheless, is not as serious as many have thought.

In the UK, almost 50 million people have been inoculated so far, and among the 20 million given AstraZeneca vaccine, only 79 cases of blood clot have been reported, and 19 have since died, meaning only four blood clot cases and one fatality out of a million vaccinations.

Is such a fatality rate considered high? Take the UK for instance, there are currently 4.42 million reported COVID-19 cases, or about 6.5% of the country's population. Mortality rate among the infected individuals is 2.89%, meaning 28,900 deaths out of every one million infections.

Compare that to the fatality from AstraZeneca vaccine, the difference is 28,900 times! So, how much safer is the vaccine!

Both the European Medicines Agency and WHO have concurred that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh its adverse effects, and the public are therefore advised to continue taking the vaccine.

Another vaccine that has also reported possible adverse effects is Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, whose use was stopped for ten days in the US in mid-April pending investigation for its correlation with possibly fatal blood clot issue. Of the eight million Americans inoculated with this vaccine, only 15 cases of blood clot complication have been reported, including three deaths. This means that only 1.9 blood clot cases and 0.38 deaths out of a million vaccinations.

Like AstraZeneca, J&J's side effects are also negligible.

In Europe, many countries have decided to continue administering J&J vaccine. EMA has listed blood clot as a rare side effect of J&J vaccine that doctors and vaccine recipients should take note of.

Look at Malaysia, the pandemic remains bad at this moment. As of Tuesday, we have reported a total of 420,632 positive cases and 1,574 fatalities with a mortality rate of 0.37% or 3,742 deaths for every one million cases. This rate is three to four thousand times higher than the mortality rate due to blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine is 79%. If all Malaysians are inoculated with this vaccine, the number of infections per million population will be reduced from 12,700 to 2,700 while the number of COVID-19 deaths will be reduced to 10 from 47 per million population.

That's why Khairy said we do not want to waste the vaccine proven to be effective against COVID-19, and instead of waiting for their turns to be vaccinated and facing the 1.27% mortality rate, members of the public are encouraged to take AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as possible because of the extremely low incidence of blood clot side effect which is still 200 times lower than road accident fatality.



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