‘Vaccine is not bulletproof’

PETALING JAYA: Even if it does not completely eliminate the chances of contracting Covid-19, vaccination will at least reduce the severity of any such infection, say health experts.

Universiti Malaya professor of epidemiology and public health Prof Dr Sanjay Rampal said there was only a small number of vaccinated individuals who were infected out of the many healthcare workers who got the jab.

“Many healthcare workers were vaccinated in phase one and it is encouraging that it appears that only nine (fully vaccinated personnel) were infected, with milder symptoms.

“Following vaccination, the risk of infection and its complications decreases, but the risk will not be reduced to zero, ” he added.

This may be the case for the next few years, as the high global incidence makes new mutations more likely and may reduce the vaccines’ effectiveness, said Dr Sanjay.

“The risk of infection will persist in the coming years. However, the vaccines should help us in the short term by decreasing the immediate risk of infection and by decreasing the severity of the disease when infected, ” he added.

As such, he said preventive measures such as wearing face masks, maintaining hand hygiene and physical distancing would lower the risk of infection.

Yesterday, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that the 40 healthcare workers who were infected with Covid-19 after being vaccinated reported less severe symptoms.

He said that nine of them were infected more than two weeks after their second dose, while the other 31 cases were infected less than two weeks after receiving the second dose.

It’s important to note that a person is only defined as having completed his vaccination two weeks after he receives his second dose.

Prof Dr Victor Hoe from Universiti Malaya’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine also said that it was vital to note that vaccinated individuals who were infected had a less severe form of the illness.

He gave the example of the United Kingdom, which saw a decline in cases after it rolled out its vaccination exercise.

“The United Kingdom has given vaccine doses to 61% of its population, and 95% of the population over the age of 50 years.

“The number of Covid-19 cases has decreased from a high of more than 60,000 cases in January to about 2,000 cases now.

“This shows that the vaccine works and with more people getting the vaccine, there will be less chance for the disease to spread, ” he said.

Dr Hoe admitted that people may be hesitant to get the vaccine as the information that they are bombarded with daily is “confusing”.

“It is difficult for the layperson to understand how to act and react. The main thing that people need to remember is that the Covid-19 disease will be with us for the near future.

“Everyone needs to continue to follow the simple standard operating procedure even though they have completed their vaccination, ” he said, adding that this will likely last until herd immunity is reached.

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