Vaccines in sight – but questions linger

GERD ALTMANN/PIXABAY

As Big Pharma races to produce a vaccine, Jem wants critical questions to be answered.

Some light has appeared at the end of a dark tunnel. For the past eight months, much of the world has been brought to its knees by a tiny virus.

Many questions have been raised about the coronavirus, but nobody has been able to come up with an entirely credible answer about its origin.

The pandemic in Malaysia is now in its third wave, which began on 20 September.

On 3 December 2020, 1,075 new Covid-19 cases were reported, pushing Malaysia’s tally to 69,095. Of these, 57,917 have recovered and 376 have died.

Health director general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said recently that gatherings for any celebration, whether religious or otherwise, should heed the rules. “People with symptoms were also at these gatherings.” This is where many of the clusters have been appearing, making it easier for the coronavirus to spread.

How are we ever going to keep Covid-19 at bay at the rate we are going? We have to face reality and stop all these “gatherings”. Do we really want to expose others, including the people we love and care for, to the coronavirus?

What if, because of our “tidak apa attitude” (apathy), they are exposed to the virus and may not be around next year? If we all do the right thing, we should be around for the next festive or birthday gatherings. So everybody, heed all the rules.

Many cases have also come from construction sites, and those responsible need to ensure that the workers concerned are tracked, traced and tested.

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Meanwhile, pharmaceutical firms in the US, the UK, China and Russia have raced to come up with a vaccine. Some of these vaccines will reportedly be rolled out to the masses within the next few months.

Countries have paid millions, even billions, to these pharmaceutical firms so that they are first to get the vaccines.

Malaysia has signed a preliminary purchasing agreement with Pfizer and is committed to pay an estimated US$250m (over RM1bn) for 12.8 million doses to Pfizer and BioNTech – but only if the drug gets is approved by US Food and Drug Administration and Malaysia’s National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency, said Noor Hisham. If this pans out, it will “meet (the) immunisation needs of 20% or 6.4 million Malaysians”.

All this sounds too good to be true. Never mind all the other questions about who gets the vaccine first or how the vaccine is going to be stored at a ridiculously cold temperatures like minus 90C! (Remember, Malaysia is a tropical country.)

The government reportedly was also working with the Chinese government to procure a vaccine, and Malaysia apparently would be given priority.

Some medical experts are saying everybody should be vaccinated = or at least vulnerable target groups for a start – once it is available.

But what is much more important, at least to my mind, is what do we really know about the efficacy and safety of these vaccines? What are the possible side-effects, if any?

How long will the immunity last? How many doses do we need to get? One? Two? Can a vaccinated person get infected again? What have the trials shown? Will the Ministry of Health keep the people abreast of the progress of these trials?

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Many people are following global media outlets to find out more about these important announcements but, sadly, our local media channels do not seem to have much to say about these crucial areas.

Other questions have been raised in relation to all those amazing people who have come through Covid-19. Medical experts have talked about these “long-haulers” who have a lot of difficulty overcoming the debilitating symptoms of the infections. How are they coping? What follow-ups have been taken by the medical community to help them through these stages? Inquiring minds want to know.

There are still so many unknowns about this coronavirus. How did it begin? Where did it begin? In a laboratory? In a wet market in China? Or elsewhere?

Let’s hope we have learned some vital lessons from this. The human race is paying a heavy price for stepping into territories that do not belong to us or eating things that are not meant for human consumption.

If, as the medical experts seem to say, the coronavirus might be around for a while, the human race must remain vigilant – as frustrating as that may be – because we do not want a year like 2020 ever again!

Jem, an Aliran reader, still cares deeply about Sabah, despite having lived in the peninsula for some time

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