Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Vaccine news brings hope at the end of a glum year

We should be grateful that we are on track to returning to 'normalcy', with vaccines set to arrive early next year.

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The year 2020 is one that many would like to forget. The coronavirus outbreak has upended lives on an unprecedented magnitude. Lives have been lost, and so have livelihoods as we grudgingly embrace new norms that only a year ago would have seemed alien, if not absurd.

On the economic front, thousands of businesses have folded. Millions have lost their jobs, or have had their incomes slashed with little to no prospects of earning back a semblance of what they used to before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

Everyone wants this outbreak to end. And the only way it will is through the availability of the Covid-19 vaccine, because that’s when the coronavirus will be unable to wreak havoc on the body of its host, including causing death.

Frequently washing hands, masking up and observing physical distancing, while crucial, will only slow down the spread of the virus and is not the silver bullet that will turn back the clock to pre-Wuhan outbreak.

So, as we reflect on what many would describe as a “horrible” year, it is with great relief that I am hearing that the Covid-19 vaccine will be here in no time. As someone who will celebrate my 76th birthday in May 2021 – if I live that long – I am somewhat excited about being vaccinated and I wish to thank the government for the free vaccine and priority for the elderly like myself.

As a septuagenarian, I am in the high-risk group. Once vaccinated, I will be able to slowly resume my life like the way it was before March 2020, such as visiting my grandchildren in Kuantan or taking a stroll in the park without worrying too much about Covid-19 infections.

It is not just the elderly who will enjoy the free vaccines. The government has been gracious enough to make it freely available to almost all of the over 30 million Malaysians until herd immunity is achieved. Despite the tough times the country is going through, the government will be spending some RM3 billion for this.

PM Muhyiddin Yassin has volunteered to be among the first to be vaccinated to allay unfounded fears, especially by the anti-vaxx groups. This will send a strong message that the vaccine is safe and effective.

As for claims that the government has been slow in procuring the vaccine compared with countries like Singapore, we have to acknowledge that the republic has deeper pockets than we do and inked the agreement with Pfizer much earlier.

On the costs, Science Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has clarified that the European Union, with its 447 million population, ordered the vaccine in bulk. Malaysia, with a population of merely 30 million had to contend with a slightly dearer price. Even at pasar malam, you get a discount if you buy in bulk!

I see no reason to pick a bone over the slightest issues during a year that has been as miserable as it has been challenging. As we wind up 2020 with news of the vaccine at our doorsteps, we should be grateful that we are on track to returning to “normalcy”, and for that I am thankful to the powers that be.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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