Those who are eligible for the Covid-19 vaccines but still refuse to get vaccinated will only make life more difficult for themselves as they will not be able to enjoy many of the benefits of those who have been fully vaccinated. This, after the health minister warned of tougher rules for those refusing vaccination without valid medical reasons.
We are already starting to see the effectiveness of vaccines in bringing cases down in the country. Sufficient time has been given to educate the public on the benefits of vaccines with more than enough evidence available and yet there are less than 10% of the population who still refuse vaccination.
As doctors, we have seen anti-vaxxer patients change their tune about vaccines when a family member or they themselves are infected with Covid-19. Often we see that when a family member dies from Covid-19, all of a sudden the vaccines become important to the surviving family members.
So our advice to anti-vaxxers is to get vaccinated before they or their loved ones become Covid-19’s next victim.
It should be noted that while cases have dipped significantly, there are still patients hospitalised for Category Three, Four and Five Covid-19 infections. The majority of these cases are among unvaccinated individuals.
In the early stages of the pandemic when there were no vaccines available, we saw mainly the elderly and those with comorbidities hospitalised for Covid-19. However, it is different now. With the presence of the Delta variant in the community, we are now seeing healthy individuals with no prior medical issues hospitalised for Covid-19. Many are also suffering from long Covid where symptoms such as fatigue, respiratory and neurological symptoms last from several weeks to months which is an unpleasant experience to say the least.
The MMA agrees that additional measures on top of the SOPs such as frequent testing will be needed for unvaccinated individuals reporting to work. Though it may be an inconvenience to them, it will serve to protect them, their loved ones and colleagues. But the best protection available which they can give themselves is vaccination.
The government needs to drive the awareness of the need to vaccinate in order to protect themselves and others around them. The vaccine does reduce the number of severe cases of Covid-19, though in tandem with protective measures like wearing of face masks and social distancing.
Malaysia has progressed to Phase Three and Four of the National Recovery Plan due to only one reason and that is vaccinations.
We also recommend that aside from educating the public on vaccines, counseling services be offered to those fearing vaccination as fear is a major factor contributing to vaccine hesitancy.
Dr Koh Kar Chai is president of the Malaysian Medical Association.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.