KUALA LUMPUR – As the arrival of the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines in Malaysia nears, Mr Abdullah Salleh finds himself in two minds about receiving an immunisation shot.
Despite being pro-vaccine, the 37-year-old videographer said he is hesitant about taking a shot due to the possibility of experiencing a lethal adverse reaction, as he is allergic to certain drugs.
“I’m actually worried because I’m allergic to Augmentin-based drugs. I hope the substance is not included in the vaccine,” he said. Augmentin is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections.
“At the moment, I’m honestly not sure if I should get it or not. I’ve been reading up a lot on the available vaccines but my near-death experience due to my allergy has made me very sceptical,” he said.
Mr Abdullah is among the 17 per cent of respondents in a Health Ministry survey who are unsure of the vaccine, with over 83 per cent of them expressing fear of possible side effects.
The survey, which was done online between Dec 21 and 28, was held to gauge the interest of Malaysians in getting the Covid-19 vaccine.
People have cast doubts on the vaccine, with some claiming that it may contain porcine elements and others questioning the trustworthiness of the manufacturers.
Up to 78 per cent of those in the uncertain group also had less confidence that the vaccines would work, while 71 per cent felt they would be unsafe for use.
Meanwhile, about 16 per cent of respondents stated that they would not agree to being vaccinated. Of this group, over 96 per cent said side effects were the main reason for opposing vaccination, while close to 85 per cent were suspicious of its ingredients.
Based on the result, which was released on Thursday, only 67 per cent of the total of 212,006 people sampled said they would accept the Covid-19 vaccine.
Healthcare analyst Heikal Rosnan, director of Bower Group Asia, said he understood the public’s concerns, but noted that what governments have done is to help speed up the vaccine-making process, compressing it from possibly more than a decade, without taking shortcuts.
He added: “More importantly, the Health Ministry has stated that each Covid-19 vaccine will have to go through five phases of tests and trials before it can be approved for use in Malaysia. There will be hiccups given the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, but overall, the country’s immunisation track record is sound.”
Ms S. Kalamathy, 41, however, plans to reject any Russian and Chinese-made vaccines. “I just don’t trust them,” said the legal administrative assistant.
Mr Heikal said people may be distrustful of the Russian and Chinese governments rather than the vaccine itself, and have less confidence in their approval processes, which are not as transparent and stringent as in the United States and Europe.
“Ultimately though, if it works, then it works, but Malaysia may take a wait-and-see approach, compared with the US vaccines,” he said.