Health Ministry needs to address fears over Covid-19 booster shots

The pick-up rate for Covid-19 booster shots in Malaysia continues to remain low – despite the possible increase in the number of infections in the days and weeks to come.

The Health Ministry’s KKMNow website showed only two per cent of Malaysians (658,333 individuals) have received both booster shots.

On Thursday, after a few clicks on the MySejahtera mobile application, I was about to confirm an appointment for my second booster shot for 2pm today. Then, I remembered I’ve got a fun run next Sunday.

Although there are eight days between the dates, it is best to avoid strenuous activities for up to two weeks after a shot. I will look for a new date to get my shot, after the run.

My decision to get the second booster shot, however, was met with howls of derision by friends who warned that it would damage my health.

One said that since taking the vaccine and the booster shot, he could no longer eat spicy, fried food and dairy products. He also cannot drink beer or whiskey.

He also claimed to have started having anxiety attacks and was referred to a psychiatrist to deal with the issue.

Others say they developed allergies, and their immune system compromised after the shots.

There are some who say that Covid-19 is now more like the common cold. They were also sceptical about the effectiveness of the vaccines as they still “got Covid-19” after their booster shots.

It is easy to see why some are sceptical, as many do not understand that the vaccines themselves, cannot prevent you from getting Covid-19. However, they do help in reducing the effects.

Perhaps the Health Ministry should hammer home this message.

Also, there is so much disinformation and misinformation about the vaccine. Some side effects may be real, but many have been blown out of proportion.

My asthma returned after more than 30 years, not because of the vaccine but because I got Covid-19 in July 2022.

The symptoms were bad, but having had the vaccine and booster shots in mid-June, early July, and early December 2021, helped me recover quickly.

However, it has been more than a year since the booster. It is best to get a second one to protect my family and I.

The number of new cases has dropped significantly in the past month. Part of the reason is that not much testing is going on.

However, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah warned that although Malaysia had transitioned to the endemic phase from April 1, 2022, the country is still gazetted as an area of infection. Also, some do not report positive cases, as many have uninstalled their MySejahtera, or it is now an unused app on the phone.

The last time I looked at the app before Thursday was on July 12 last year – the day after I ended my self-quarantine.

What else can the ministry do to convince Malaysians to get booster shots?

For one, the Centres for Disease Control, the national public health agency of the United States, recommends having vaccine ambassadors speak about the need for booster shots. These ‘ambassadors’ are ordinary folks who can drive the ‘motivate, vaccinate, and activate’ campaigns to convince more people to get the jab.

For those living in rural areas or even in towns and cities, the ministry should consider ‘mobile vaccination clinics’ and perhaps have workplace vaccinations at offices or factories with a high number of workers.

In Singapore, those wanting to get the vaccine or booster shots can show up at vaccination centres without an appointment. That is something else we could try in Malaysia.

There are many more ways of convincing people that booster shots are necessary, for as long as Covid-19 is with us.

By the way, the weekly Covid-19 numbers published by Twentytwo13 every Saturday will now become a monthly affair.


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Until next week, stay safe.

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