Biting the bullet

Just take it: Now is not the time to be choosy about vaccine ‘brands’. The reality is that the odds of someone dying from Covid-19 is high.

FINALLY! Sense has prevailed and something’s being done about the skyrocketing numbers. It’s taken longer than it should have, but that’s likely because of the solution’s expected deep impact to the economy. Are we in a position to choose, though?

Every other day is a new record. While we’re awaiting further details, this time around, the government has announced the next two key phases, along with the timeline.

The 2 + 4 weeks means lockdown can potentially be lifted only by July 13.

We must be prepared for a two-week extension until July 28. That’s nearing Aug 1 and the end of the Emergency declaration.

So, playing it safe, it’s best we condition ourselves for a two-month lockdown for it to be worthwhile this time.

Yes, it will impact businesses and people, with dire consequences, but it’s time we bite the bullet because we need to hit the brakes hard again.

We shouldn’t be surprised by these escalating figures, especially following the huge crowds at Ramadan bazaars and Hari Raya celebrations, where we know rules were broken.

The number of non-Malays, especially the Chinese, has also been glaring. So, we’re all guilty.

Restaurants were packed, and roads jammed up daily.

These aren’t the only reasons, of course. We pulled our foot off the brake in December, when we were let loose.

Many of us went on holidays, and judging from pictures of street parties, especially in Penang during Christmas and New Year, we were clearly headed for trouble.

This brazen flouting of SOP and the lack of enforcement – including pathetic workers dormitories and double-standard practices – are all well-documented.

Now, here’s the crunch. Malaysia is now in the Intensive Care Unit. We either go under the knife and slice off the cancerous cells, and spend two weeks in hospital for a complete cure, or pretend all is well and simply stick to taking pain killers and steroid jabs.

It’s a given the numbers will hit new records. We don’t need to be experts to forecast the projections. Perhaps, it’s time for us to listen to health experts instead of politicians, who will always look at short-term plans.

But we’re to blame, too.

I’m not sure if this is a Malaysian quirk, but it’s certainly perplexing.

I have family members, friends and colleagues who have passed on the AstraZeneca vaccination programme because they don’t rate it.

Curiously, they think AZ will kill them. They fear getting blood clots.

So, they’d rather wait for Pfizer. Nothing but only Pfizer. In their own words, “it’s branded, you see”.

Then, those frequenting China are terrified at the thought of getting vaccinated by the American made Pfizer because they can’t imagine being denied entry into China.

Pfizer’s Viagra is okay, but not Pfizer’s vaccine. I was told that one elderly man stormed off from a vaccination centre when he found out he was getting Pfizer.

There are also the absolutely bizarre theories from some Chinese friends of mine who believe the China-made Sinovac works better in Chinese bodies, including Malaysian Chinese.

They told me this with straight faces, which means they assume their theories have sound scientific basis.

So, when I told my circle of friends that I was indeed honoured and pleased to be selected for AZ early on, they were aghast.

I was given several lectures on the dangers of potential blood clots from well-meaning people.

From the expression of concern on their faces, I could tell they feared I could drop dead anytime.

Let’s not even mention the many chat groups we’re in, where experts have surfaced. Strangely, they aren’t disturbed by the daily jump in new Covid-19 cases.

Every other day is a record smashing day over the past few weeks, yet still, they’d rather wait.

But prejudice has begun to concede to fear. Suddenly, I can sense a shift among these vaccine snobs.

Following the first round of AZ vaccine offers, which were snapped up within an hour in April, more Malaysians have realised that while they continue procrastinating over AZ, many others are expectantly waiting in line.

Many young friends of mine, who would often wake up late, were waiting eagerly to register themselves for the first round of AZ vaccines.

With phone in hand, it was a race to the finish to get themselves registered. As expected, those who tried logging in only at 2pm or 3pm found out that registration had closed.

So, most did the next thing Malaysians do best – blame the government. Reasons included, there were no reminders, they missed the announcement and the system sucks. Maybe a look in the mirror was in order?

Last week, a classic scenario played out. The system unsurprisingly crashed, leading many Malaysians to vent their frustration.

With more than 100,000 entering the system per minute, many fairly contended how 100,000 Malaysians could compete for bargains on Shoppe and Lazada while their systems worked perfectly well.

And just when everything had failed, many Malaysians woke up to two pieces of good news. They received a date for their first dose of vaccination and recalcitrant Member of Parliament Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman had been sacked!

It was dramatic! Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak aka Bosku advised his Umno MP, Tajuddin, to apologise, but it was the Prime Minister aka The Real Boss, who gave Tajuddin the sack from Prasarana – via Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz.

Talk about a classic cucuk. That was a painful one, although he tried to put up a brave front and denied he had been hit by a train or thrown off one.

If our politicians are stubborn, so are most of us. Many of us simply can’t follow rules and SOP.

Unless you’re a celebrity proudly posting pictures of yourself on social media breaking SOP, the chances of getting booked by the authorities are near nil.

Let’s face it, enforcement is almost non-existent in Malaysia, and we know all those rules only look good on paper.

If you don’t believe me, ask the delivery boys to tell you if they’ve ever been caught for beating traffic lights.

So, if you really believe Malaysians have the discipline for a self-lockdown and will only spend two hours shopping at the mall, you’re probably from Mars.

We haven’t even come to the 20,000 people from Kelantan and Kedah who didn’t turn up for their vaccination although they registered.

Even traditionally influential PAS officials are bewildered that their loyalists are not subscribing to these vaccines.

And finally, the government should seriously re-think its proposal to allow people to choose their vaccine in MySejahtera. Never promise something you can’t control.

For starters, the supply of vaccines is at the mercy of the manufacturers from the United States, Europe and China – namely Pfizer, AZ and Sinovac.

We should never encourage Malaysians to be selective because when the government fails to deliver, it would be criticised, and we don’t need our frontliners at vaccination centres to be at the receiving end of irate countrymen.

Malaysians must learn to just accept the vaccine they receive because there are many, many others who are prepared to embrace any kind of vaccine.

If the choosy wish to reject what’s prescribed to them, then it’s their choice to walk away. However, they must be warned that they would be bumped to the bottom of the pile, and only get their vaccine if they’re lucky, or still alive.

The reality is that the odds of someone dying from Covid is far higher than someone succumbing to blood clots from AZ.

And don’t worry about not being able to enter Europe, US or China because of the kind of vaccines that would eventually be sorted out. In any case, we won’t be travelling anywhere for a while.

Worry more about your trip to the quarantine centre, hospital or mortuary.

As my colleague, Brian Martin, wrote in his column, On Your Side, the best vaccine is the one in your arm.

Indeed, I feel thankful, privileged and secure that I had #CucukMyAZ.

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Wong Chun Wai , On the Beat , lockdown , covid-19

Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 35 years in various capacities and roles. He is now group editorial and corporate affairs adviser to the group, after having served as group managing director/chief executive officer. On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.


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