Accelerate the pace for herd immunity

VACCINATION has become the hope of many both in the nation and globally as the most effective way to end the Covid-19 pandemic.

After vaccination, we would still have to follow standard operating procedures, but we would be able to move about more freely and life could return to a semblance of normality.

But for this to happen, vaccination must give us herd immunity.

Herd immunity is when a sufficient proportion of the population has achieved immunity against a disease. This can be achieved through vaccination, which significantly reduces the spread of the disease and also protects those who cannot be vaccinated (contraindicated).

We are aware that the Covid-19 vaccines are effective at reducing hospital admissions and clinical infection, but data on how good they are at preventing transmission are still uncertain. Overall, it would result in a huge reduction in symptomatic cases, long-term morbidity (long Covid) and deaths.

To achieve herd immunity against Covid-19, a substantial proportion of a population would need to be vaccinated, but we are currently uncertain as to what this percentage is.

For measles, 90% to 95% of a population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. For polio, we require about 80% to be vaccinated.

It is very likely that for Covid-19, we will require at least 75% to 85% of the population to be vaccinated. This can be supplemented by those who had the disease and recovered from it.

As of March 17,367,213 or 1.15% of the Malaysian population have been vaccinated with one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. In addition, 5,867,497 have registered to receive the vaccine, i.e. less than 30% of those eligible. Only 15.8% of people aged 60 years and above and those with comorbidities have signed up.

At the moment, registering for vaccinations and receiving the required dosages are both going on at a slow pace. At the current rate, only about six million or 19% of the whole population in Malaysia will receive one dose of vaccines by the end of the year.

We expect that the Health Ministry in partnership with the private sector will ramp up vaccinations for Phase 2, which starts next month.

In this pandemic, we need to take personal responsibility. We are in this together and our collective vaccination is part of the way forward.

DATUK DR AMAR-SINGH HSS , Consultant paediatrician , Ipoh

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