Don't worry about safety of Covid-19 vaccine, public told

A file photo of a nurse filling a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. - Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): The public have been told not to worry about receiving Covid-19 vaccines after allegations that they may cause side effects.

The Health Ministry's National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) senior principal assistant director Norleen Mohamed Ali said what happened in some countries was an adverse event following immunisation (AEFI) to Covid-19 vaccines.

She said it was not a side effect but reactions such as swelling and pain on the injection site, which are normal.

Norleen said about 80% of vaccine recipients would experience such adverse effects, apart from a small percentage of those who could experience, among others, fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and even fatigue.

"These are common reactions – what we call reactogenicity – to any vaccine. From there, we also found that there is a very small percentage and very rare adverse effects that we classify as worse or more serious," she told a virtual media briefing on Covid-19 immunisation here on Friday (Feb 19).

Elaborating further, Norleen said in the context of the Comirnaty (Concentrate for Dispersion for Injection) vaccine, which uses the messenger RNA (mRNA) method for the Covid-19 vaccine, the adverse effects from taking the vaccine were coincidental.

"However, it's difficult for us to know who will get this adverse effect because the analogy is the same as if we are allergic to food, if we don't eat (the food that we are allergic to), we wouldn't know. So, similar to taking medicines or vaccines, if you don't take, we wouldn't know," she said.

Norleen said medicines and traditional products could also give allergic reactions, just like vaccines to immunise the people against Covid-19.

Meanwhile, she said the agency would carry out benefit assessments on whether the vaccination would exceed the risk faced by the recipients.

"The stigma – that if there are side effects then the vaccine is dangerous – is wrong. If we look at the United States, they have given 21 million doses and the number of vaccine recipients who get these side effects is very low and most are mild and can heal on its own.

"Their infectivity rate is also declining. This vaccine is not only to protect ourselves, but also the community as a whole," she said.

Norleen said individuals experiencing adverse effects can lodge report at the nearest health facility or via MySejahtera app or the NPRA official website.

Malaysia is set to roll out the biggest vaccination exercise it has ever undertaken on Feb 26, targeting 80% of the population or 26 million individuals in three phases.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive in Malaysia this Sunday (Feb 21). – Bernama

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