KUALA LUMPUR: The failure of many individuals to keep to their Covid-19 vaccination appointments without any solid reason is disrupting the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme’s target and delaying the process of achieving herd immunity in the country, says Assoc Prof Dr Yahya Mat Arip, a virologist from Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Malaysia aims to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19 by having at least 70% of its population vaccinated by the end of the year.
However, the percentage of those who have registered for the Covid-19 vaccine is very low, while the rate of absenteeism for those who have been given an appointment is also quite high.
“Individuals who are not present at the vaccination appointment will indeed be given a new date, but as far as possible (one should) keep the date given except for unavoidable factors.
“But if they do not show up without a reasonable cause, or were influenced by (anti-vaccine) propaganda, this is an irresponsible attitude as there are many others who want to get the vaccine immediately, ” said Yahya.
He said failure to attend a vaccination appointment could also lead to wastage of vaccines that had been removed from storage and should be used up as they have a short shelf life.
Yahya said a vaccine dose has to be removed (from cold storage) first to reach room temperature before being administered to an individual, and repeating the process of chilling and warming repeatedly could degrade the vaccine, rendering it ineffective.
“It depends on the type of vaccine, whether it is temperature-sensitive or not. For example, the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) is temperature-sensitive and needs to be stored at -70°C. So when removed from storage, it needs to be used within a certain period of time, and cannot be ‘re-stored’.
“Therefore, careful planning based on the number of appointments is important to avoid wastage, and that is why it is important for one to keep the appointment date, ” he said, adding that other brands of vaccines are more stable and do not require storage at low temperatures, but still require to be kept within -20°C to 4°C.
A vial of Comirnaty contains enough vaccine for six persons, and if there is one recipient short that day, it will complicate things for the five persons who turned up, while the medical officers will find it difficult to look for a replacement candidate in a short time.
“This will waste the time and effort of the five recipients, and cause frustration. If the same thing happens two or three times, it will definitely ‘demotivate’ individuals who were initially ready to receive the vaccine, ” he added.
Sharing similar views is Malaysian Pharmacists Society president, Amrahi Buang, who said it was very important for every vial of vaccine to be injected immediately to recipients.
“Sinovac (CoronaVac) needs only one person for each vial, but Pfizer needs six people (to a vial), while AstraZeneca needs 10 people... so you have to have enough (individuals) for each vaccine.
“Let’s say the vial is for 10 people; usually they (vaccinators) have already drawn 10 doses into the syringe, so if one person does not keep the appointment, it means we waste one dose because it cannot be put back and used the next day, ” he said.
Amrahi also believes that the issue of queue-jumping for vaccination is a mere perception, when what actually could be happening
is that other people are called to receive jabs to replace those who failed to attend in the first place.
Amrahi said the country was currently facing two challenges, namely the Covid-19 infection rate, and the attendant fear and reluctance of some to be vaccinated, when many did not keep their appointments, such as seen in Kelantan.
“There are many challenges and impact on health and also the country if they refuse to attend the vaccination appointment, ” he added.
On May 16, Kelantan Health Department director Datuk Dr Zaini Hussin said 1,800 people did not attend the second phase of the immunisation programme, giving various reasons including doubting its halal status and feeling that
the vaccine is not beneficial for protection, apart from the fear of side effects.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Association of Public Health Physicians president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said apart from messing up the vaccination schedule, those who did not show up were the losers because they face the risk of serious symptoms should they get infected.
“Those who are deliberately absent for non emergency situations are irresponsible, and do not care about the hardships that others have to go through.
“A vaccine that is drawn cannot be stored for a long time as it will degrade or be contaminated, ” he added. — Bernama