As the world community races to get the COVID-19 vaccine, some Malaysians still refuse to get vaccinated while those who have been inoculated can heave a sigh of relief and be confident to go about their daily lives amid the pandemic.
Negative stories about the side effects are among the reasons many have shied away from getting vaccinated, in addition to religious concerns about the contents.
As of June 5, a total of 1,128,738 individuals in the country have completed two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in a speech on the development of the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme yesterday, said that Malaysia has administered over three million doses, with over two million recipients having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, thus putting the country among the leading nations in Southeast Asia to have its citizens receive the first dose of the vaccine.
Hence, let us put our efforts together to ensure the largest vaccination programme in the history of the country achieves its herd immunity target with more than 80 per cent of the population inoculated.
For senior citizens, Normah Yusof, and her husband Yusuff Abd Razak, both 70, from Johol Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan, admitted that initially, they were worried listening to negative stories of the vaccine.
However, after a clear explanation given by certain parties, they finally agreed to be administered with the first dose on May 3.
“Before receiving the shot, we felt nervous… but now we feel relieved. There is no need to worry about taking the vaccine because it is guaranteed safe and has the approval of the Ministry of Health. At first, I felt numbness in my hand, but until now there have been no side effects,” said Normah, adding that they both received the shot at the vaccination centre at the Datuk Bahaman Shamsudin Hall, Kuala Pilah.
It was a different story for Hilman Jamil, 36, from Taman Melati, Setapak, here, who had to persuade and convince his mother, Siti Rokiah Yusof, who was very reluctant to get the vaccine.
“I told my mother then that the government would conduct spot checks at every house and anyone who was not vaccinated would be sent to the COVID-19 treatment centre at the crowded Malaysia Agricultural Expo Park Serdang (MAEPS),” said Hilman who received his first dose of AstraZeneca on May 30.
Upon listening to his ‘worrying’ tales, Hilman’s mother finally agreed and volunteered to get vaccinated with the first dose was administered on June 6.
For a senior citizen, Jaffar @ Harun Mohamad, 73, his determination to see his children returning home to visit him in Kampung Bukit Bayas, Terengganu prompted him to get inoculated as he believed it would protect him from contracting the virus, which thus far has claimed more than 2,000 lives in the country.
Jaffar, who completed both doses on May 27, said the absence of his children, who are living outside Terengganu, from returning home during Aidilfitri last year and this year, strengthened his determination to get vaccinated after it was offered to the public.
“I really want to see the situation returning to normal. I hope everyone gets the vaccine so that the disease (COVID-19) will quickly disappear from Malaysia, and hopefully, by next year my children will be able to return home to spend time with me,” he said.
Retiree Zabadin Omar, 73, from Kangar, Perlis said he was initially afraid to get the vaccine, but he eventually ignored the negative stories about the COVID-19 vaccine spread by anti-vaccine groups because he was aware of its benefits.
“At first I was afraid when I heard all the negative stories. Alhamdulillah, after taking the first dose that day, in the afternoon I could harvest bananas from the garden. Even when I was getting the second dose, I did not experience any pain and now I feel more confident,” he said.
Assistant medical officer Mohd Nazaruddin Jamaluddin, 48, from Kampung Buntong, Ipoh, Perak, has this advice for members of the public – stop entertaining speculation shared by those who like to exaggerate or ‘make up stories’ about the effects of the vaccine.
He said the community has been exposed to vaccines for a long time, therefore the validity and effectiveness of vaccines should not be an issue.
“I really feel very grateful after being administered the vaccine. I recommend the public to get the vaccine for the common good. There is no need to be afraid of the vaccine as it is a very good thing,” he said, having completed his two-dose vaccination late last month.
Meanwhile, government pensioner Abdul Hamid Pandak, 73, from Taman Setali Maju, Kuantan, Pahang, likened his readiness to be vaccinated on May 17 as his small contribution to the country in the effort to break the COVID-19 chain.
“Apart from staying at home, this is also our effort to flatten this pandemic curve, and now almost two weeks after getting the first shot of the vaccine, I have yet to experience any side effects,” he said.
Medical officer Dr Nurul Huda Zainuddin, 35, from Tangkak, Johor, said every individual must get inoculated as it can protect those at risk, including those with severe allergies or undergoing cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“Some people do compare between Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines. We should not do that. Whichever vaccine that we are getting (except pregnant and breastfeeding mothers), we just take it.
“Don’t wait or be picky or choosy. It is all the same and it has good implications to fight the COVID-19 virus,” said Dr Nurul Huda, who received the first dose on March 8 and the second dose on March 29.
Private sector employee Mohd Hafiz Shariff, 35, from Seberang Jaya, Penang, despite suffering from kidney problems, volunteered to be vaccinated, with the first dose administered on April 22 and the second dose on May 17 at the Seberang Jaya Hospital.
“I was willing to be vaccinated because the doctor from the Ministry of Health convinced me to get it because I have a health problem related to my kidney membranes/tissues,” he said.
He said after taking both doses of the vaccine, he felt lethargic and slight numbness at the injection site followed by fever, but it did not last long.
Dentist Dr Jeannete Wong, who was administered the vaccine on March 25 and April 15, said she was relieved that now she was able to perform her duties more confidently.
“Now I am more confident to do my work after completing my vaccination. I am aware that I can be infected with COVID-19 but the risk has been reduced,” she said.