Expert: Allow public COVID-19 vaccine choice, publish AEFI reports

THE Government should consider allowing the public option on which COVID-19 vaccines they wish to take to gain public confidence on the mass inoculation programme.

“In the past I have said that we should just take what is given. However, with the variety of COVID-19 vaccines coming in, I believe we can allow everyone to have a choice, using technology.

“Let’s say if the person refuses to take the Pfizer shot, they can opt for another vaccine brand. Maybe it will just delay the vaccination for the person and he or she may have to get it at another location,” Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar told FocusM.

Last month, Zainal urged the public to take up whatever vaccine the Government offers, as allowing the people an option may cause logistical problem for the Government due to storage issues, among others.

“The Government will also be scheduling the public (under different phases). Allowing people choice of vaccines at this juncture would cause a lot of disruption,” he was reported saying.

Touching on the AstraZeneca vaccine controversy today, Zainal urged the Government to decide on the matter as soon as possible, to prevent the public from making unnecessary speculation about it.

However, Zainal reiterated that a comprehensive study needs to be done to ascertain whether the alleged “blood clot” incident following the administration of AstraZeneca vaccine is an isolated incident or otherwise.

“From my understanding, the blood clot problem following vaccination is quite common but we must ascertain whether it’s actually linked to the vaccine or not.

“My suggestion would be for the Government to be cautious about it and check reports after being administered to sub-groups such as the senior citizens, women and others,” he opined.

Recently, the minister coordinating the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) Khairy Jamaluddin said that Malaysia will review its purchase of the AstraZeneca vaccine, pending a report from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

“We have a bit of time to decide whether or not to go through with this. At the moment, the EMA has not yet issued a report,” the Rembau MP was reported saying.

Several cases of thrombosis, or blood clots, have been reported in European countries among AstraZeneca vaccine recipients.

On that note, Zainal urged the Government to make public its adverse event following immunisation (AEFI) reports to raise awareness of the importance of getting inoculated.

“Our Health Minister had announced some figures on that earlier, which is good, but the public need more details. Our counterparts in the Europe constantly publish their AEFI reports.

“Malaysia had the capacity and capability to address the situation but I’m not sure why the Government is hesitant. Perhaps, they are afraid the public may get confused,” he remarked. – April 10, 2021.

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