A couple of weeks ago, I made it public that I was willing to be given the AstraZeneca vaccine. I had no reservations or qualms about it.
But when my thoughts were highlighted in the media, my acquaintances, friends and even loved ones were surprised at my preparedness to receive this so-called ‘risky’ vaccine (that was the verdict of the court of public opinion at that time).
A significant number of my friends, out of politeness and respect, did not chastise, or rebuke directly, but sent me various reports highlighting the negative side-effects, particularly on the blood clots and deaths, linked to AstraZeneca. They also shared information on countries that had discontinued the use of this vaccine, or had reservations, including Denmark, Norway, and Iceland.
I, too, had done my research and was fully aware of the negative reports about AstraZeneca. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) confirmed that the overall benefit-risk of taking AstraZeneca remains positive and that the unusual blood clots with low blood platelets are very rare side effects. Who says that there is a risk-free vaccine available?
Most of the ‘dissenting views’ I received were through WhatsApp. Even some of my very close friends gave me the silent treatment – I could read their minds, that they were against the idea. I was treated like an ‘outcast’ even by my family members.
When Malaysians, especially the elderly, heard that AstraZeneca would be included in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, about 8,000 people withdrew or cancelled their registration. There was a lack of confidence in the vaccine. The government then decided to exclude AZ in the NIP and offer the already-purchased vaccine to those who don’t mind opting for it.
The government then announced that all Malaysians and foreigners living in the country (irrespective of age) could register online on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis on May 2. But as the day of registration for the vaccine approached, there was again, a hive of activity in my WhatsApp groups, with details on how to register. The sheer number of similar messages was indicative of the high interest in the subject matter.
Overall, I had expected a lukewarm response from Malaysians on AstraZeneca. Then, the unthinkable happened.
As I steadied myself to register at noon (on May 2) I could not get a response on the first date indicated in the list for University Malaya. In hindsight, I think most of the early birds, like me, conveniently chose the earliest dates.
There was also some initial teething technical problems and I could not get a response. Then it dawned on me that there was a significant number of like-minded Malaysians who had done their ‘homework’ and were prepared to take the risks. I suppose others wanted to be vaccinated as soon as possible and were not too particular about the type of vaccine they were given.
I took an hour’s break and then went online again to try my luck. I noticed that many of the appointments in May had been taken up. This time, I was smart enough to choose a date much later than the earliest date available, and just like that, I got an appointment that came with a congratulatory message.
Later I learned from Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin that all the 260,000 slots were taken up in about three hours. A second round of opt-in registrations for the AstraZeneca vaccine was also fully subscribed.
Given the fantastic response, the government has decided to re-include AstraZeneca as one of the country’s mainstream vaccines.
Now that I have just been vaccinated on June 2, I have more peace of mind – at least the first dose will make me less vulnerable to the virus.
I want to do my part in contributing to the country’s objective of reaching herd immunity.
Not only would I be safe, but I would not be affecting those that I come in contact with.
All of us have a personal responsibility to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. The government can only do so much.
So please let’s all do our patriotic duty –get registered and vaccinated.
There is always an element of risk in whatever decisions we make, or actions we take.
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.