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PETALING JAYA, Feb 24 — After nearly a year of living the “new normal”, Malaysians can finally see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel with the arrival of the first shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine last Sunday.
Malay Mail spoke to various Malaysians in Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru and Kota Kinabalu to find out how they felt about getting vaccinated soon.
Of the 24 people polled, 15 were cautiously optimistic about the vaccine while seven could not wait to get the shots and just two said they did not want to get the vaccine.
Nurul Syazana, 39, believes the vaccine’s arrival is a good sign that the pandemic might soon come to an end.
When met at a shopping mall in the upper middle-class enclave of Bangsar, she said, “I do want the vaccine, but when I see news about six people dying from it... I feel less confident.
“I still feel mostly positive because I’m quite open and I have given my children vaccines they needed previously,” she explained.
Stories about six people dying from the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine were shared widely on social media but they are not true.
While six people did die during the vaccine trials, only two were actually given the vaccine. The other four had received a safe placebo of a salt water solution.
Also, there has been no evidence that the vaccine caused the deaths of the two.
Concern about possible side effects is the most common issue among all those we spoke to. A doctor who works in a Selangor hospital who is in her 20s said the impact of the side effects may only be known 10 years down the road.
“I think the vaccine is safe... Covid-19 is worse. Most of my bosses said it is better to take because if we get infected, it can affect our bodies even after we recover by potentially increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack and so on.”
Then there is Datuk Seri Anwar Fazal, former president of Consumers International, who is looking forward to the vaccination but does not see its arrival as a “magic bullet” that will solve the many issues this pandemic has surfaced.
"The Covid-19 vaçcine’s arrival may be celebrated by some but it does raise many serious issues and these should not be forgotten,” said the 79-year-old who lives in Penang.
He was referring to the way foreign workers in the construction and manufacturing industries were treated and the shocking state of their work and living conditions which led to mass Covid-19 infections.
Anwar Fazal said he will get his doctor’s advice before registering for the vaccination. “My priority will be to stay safe and healthy and comply with the best advice and rules."
It is no surprise that many people, tired of staying indoors, are looking forward to being able to meet up with friends and family, or enjoy the simple pleasure of hanging out without worrying about violating SOPs.
Others are hopeful that the economy will improve with the coming of the vaccine.
Norbert Juakim, 46, a tobacco trader in Tamparuli, Sabah, said he would feel better once he’s been vaccinated even though he is unsure about how effective it is at staving off the virus.
“Since there is no cure yet, a vaccine will have to do for now. I don’t know much about it but I have no issue with taking it if my doctor says it's ok. I have to check with him because I’m on high blood pressure medication at the moment,” he said.
Another person who feels positive about the vaccine is Manivanan Balasingam, 41, who is a businessman in Johor Baru.
“For me, it’s free and I have nothing to lose if I take it. I feel the vaccine works like any regular vaccine including the ones we took when we were children.”
Mechanic and workshop proprietor Yeap Leong Seng, 37, said he will register for the vaccine once it's made available to the wider public.
“As a business owner, my wish is to see the economy improve after about a year of living in lockdowns and various movement control orders due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Moreover, those who do not get vaccinated may not be able to travel in future,” he said when met at Taman Perling in Johor Baru.
A few of those Malay Mail spoke to admitted they were nervous about getting vaccinated and were adopting a “wait and see” approach ie. let others get vaccinated first and see what happens.
One who does not share this “see first” attitude is Jothi Thureirejah, a 62-year-old grandmother, who has family overseas who have already received a dose of the vaccine.
“My sister in the UK has taken it and she said she didn't have any side effects, so I dont think I’m going to get any reactions. And I think it’s good for the country.
“I am ready to take it,” she said when met at PJ Old Town.
Another person who is eager to get vaccinated is graphic designer Fandi Khor, 32, who is excited that it is now available.
He said proof of vaccination will be needed before anybody can travel overseas in future so it is best to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“I feel the government has done their research in choosing the vaccine so it is not for me to choose which vaccine is better,” he added.
Meanwhile, 30-year-old food trader Mustaffar Jumaat from Tampoi in Johor is saying a hard no to the vaccine because he cannot afford to get ill from possible side effects.
“I have a family to provide for,” he explained.
One issue that some of the respondents brought up was not being able to choose which vaccine they will receive.
The five vaccines in the National Vaccination Programme are from Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, CanSino Biologics and Sputnik V.
Harpreet Kaur, a 23-year-old from Ipoh, said she wants to choose which vaccine she receives to safeguard her health.
“As someone with a history of severe multiple group of drug allergies, I am very concerned over this topic.
“I have heard that the Pfizer vaccine causes adverse reactions in people with allergies,” said the self-employed woman, referring to the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
Another person who has similar concerns is 56-year-old chartered valuer Micheal Geh from Penang who said, “I would rather choose the type of vaccine and I don’t mind paying for it.”
Malaysia’s vaccination rollout starts today with Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin getting his shot today followed by medical and non-medical frontliners joining in as well.