Go give yourself a boost

REMEMBER when we were so eager to get the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine? 

We refreshed our MySejahtera app every few minutes to see if we got a slot. We worried when people around us had already received theirs long before us. 

Remember how we had to go through roadblocks with armed officers, just to get that first jab? 

A short drive to a medical centre felt like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. 

And then there was the whole argument over what type of vaccine we were given, with rumours that the more potent Pfizer doses were reserved only for the elites and that the less popular Sinovac might not be recognised for international travels. 

The vaccines were such a precious commodity that there were reports of individuals cutting queues as well as medical officers 

faking the injections — some of which were caught on camera — to keep the doses for whatever reasons. Meanwhile, those who were against the vaccine, the anti-vaxxers, managed to illegally acquire vaccine certifications. 

We saw the same fuss all over again for the second dose, but not so much for the third (first booster). This, most probably, was because it was not made mandatory by the government. 

The Health Ministry, in March 2022, said that individuals were still allowed to dine in at restaurants, enter shopping malls, workplaces and places of worship without the booster shot, as long as they had received their primary vaccination. 

So here rises the question of why did we get vaccinated in the first place? Was it really to protect ourselves from the ever-mutating SARS-CoV-2 virus? Or was it just so we could go for late-night lepak mamak sessions with our buddies again? 

Now that we are back to almost pre-Covid normalcy, it is easy to grow complacent and forget that the virus is still around us. Keep in mind, this is despite experts having told us that the vaccination we took will wear out after some time. 

According to the Real-World Evaluation of Covid-19 Vaccines Under the Malaysia National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (Recovam), protection against Covid-19 wanes three to five months after immunisation, hence the need for a booster shot. 

The virus is still evolving and mutating. The new variants are as much a mystery now as the initial ones were three years ago. 

Not only that, they attack individuals differently, too. To some, their Covid-19 experience was a cold or loss of taste and smell, while for others, it could mean hospitalisation or worse. 

“I’ve had two doses of the vaccine and still got infected,” one may argue as a reason for not getting the third shot, let alone the fourth. 

Experts had, from the very beginning, explained that Covid-19 vaccines do not stop someone from getting the virus, but it helps protect against serious illness, hospitalisation and death. When vaccinated people develop symptoms, they tend to be less severe. 

Health DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in December last year that only 49.8% of the population had received the first booster dose and 1.9% had received the second booster dose. 

Hopefully, though, we will see improvement of vaccine uptake with China reopening its border on Jan 8. While this is great news for families long-separated and suspended businesses, there is also China’s alarming surge of Covid-19 cases since it ended the zero-Covid policy last month. 

With the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry stressing that it is not a good move to tighten the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for incoming travellers and Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor announcing that there will be no additional SOPs imposed on travellers arriving in Sabah, we can expect about six million Chinese travellers this year. 

Having said that, it is important to note here that we are also receiving arrivals from the US, Japan, South Korea and France, which have recorded high numbers of infections. However, the return of Chinese travellers seems to have struck a special kind of fear into our hearts. 

During her fourth vaccine jab at a clinic in Damansara Damai last Monday, a doctor told this writer that she received over 100 appointments that day alone. This might sound small, but it was an encouraging number compared to the previous week’s highest of only 50. 

“This might be due to domestic and international travels, especially during the upcoming Chinese New Year. 

“I think people have learned from the past and are aware that the vaccine is the best thing we have at the moment to protect themselves and their families,” she said. 

So, with the virus still among us in variants that we can’t even keep track of (the latest one is called Kraken?!), go get that booster shot. 

Farezza Hanum Rashid is the news editor at The Malaysian Reserve. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition