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6:29pm 21/09/2021
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Positive outlook for pandemic in Malaysia

Sin Chew Daily

On Sunday, the country reported a total of 14,954 new COVID-19 cases for a fifth straight day of decline.

Since the total number of positive cases breached the one-million mark 69 days ago on July 13, we have not seen a marked downtrend and the situation has since worried many Malaysians.

And following the smooth implementation of the national immunization program, even though the daily new infection numbers and deaths have not shown any marked sign of declining, the situation has not significantly worsened either. Up till this point, perhaps we can optimistically hope that the pandemic will trend in a more reassuring direction.

The number of vaccine doses administered breached the 40 million mark on Sunday, more than the total population of this country and putting us among the top 20 countries with the highest vaccination rates.

The health ministry has announced that we should achieve the goal of 80% of our adult population fully vaccinated by Tuesday, and for 60% of the entire country’s population fully vaccinated within one week.

It takes the government and the medical system seven full months to complete such a challenging task and for this, we need to show a high level of appreciation for their marvelous effort.

There were indeed times defense breaks happened in the course of our tough fight against the coronavirus, and because of that we saw an explosion of new cases in May that has now brought our total number of infections to 2.11 million with over 23,000 deaths.

It is nevertheless not too late to make amends. We have somehow managed to cap the spread of the virus by way of vaccinating our citizens. While we may not be considered successful in containing the outbreak, at least we have accumulated some truly valuable experiences along the way.

Thanks to the high efficiency in administering the vaccines day and night over the past so many months, we have achieve our goal a month in advance.

From short supply of vaccines in early months, we now have an oversupply of them. Unfortunately, still about 6.3% or more than 1.48 million adult Malaysians have yet to register themselves for vaccination.

Such people can be divided into two major groups, for one, people living in remote areas. As health minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said, we need to go into these remote villages to help inoculate the people.

Another group of unregistered people are those who squarely refuse to get vaccinated, and the government is going to track down these people and try to persuade them to get vaccinated. If they are civil servants, the health ministry will discuss with public health services department on the necessary actions against such people, save for personal health reasons.

We have indeed seen quite a sizable number of anti-vaxxers over the past half a year. They refuse to go for vaccination and have discouraged their families to do the same. We have read about plenty of cases involving unvaccinated families on almost a daily basis.

While we still have people rejecting vaccination, the government has announced that a third booster shot will begin to be administered from early October. PM Ismail Sabri has said health minister Khairy will unveil the details on booster shot soon.

When over 80% of the country’s adult population has been fully vaccinated, it is now time to administer booster doses to high risk and vulnerable groups, including medical frontliners, people with compromised immune system, elderlies suffering from chronic illnesses and people chronically working or living in healthcare institutions.

With the Delta variant ravaging much of the world, a third booster dose will become an “essential task” of the government, especially with the reclassification of the coronavirus as an endemic, it is now a universal consensus among healthcare professionals that we have to learn to “live with the virus” after receiving two or three doses of the vaccine.

As we are embarking on the booster dose immunization program, minister Khairy said on Monday that youngsters aged between 12 and 17 can opt to allow their schools to arrange for them to get vaccinated or walk in to specific private clinics to get vaccinated.

A booster dose for adults and vaccination for the teens will help put the pandemic under further control.

Khairy has not ruled out the possibility of mix-and-match booster vaccination as has been practiced in Canada in June followed by France, Finland and Norway. In fact, many countries have started experimenting on mix-and-match for booster vaccination. Statistics show that AZ+Pfizer and AZ+Moderna combinations have remarkably boosted the recipients’ immunity. And a third booster dose, even without mix-and-match, will still strengthen our immunity against the virus, even the Delta variant.

We have come a long way since the initial onset of the pandemic. The outlook will be positive if the anti-vaxxers soften their stand, teenagers and more migrant workers begin to get vaccinated, coupled with the launch of the booster vaccination program.

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