Vaccination schedule decides Covid-19 end

May 13 — Are you afraid to take the vaccine?

I’ve decided. It was not difficult. For those who have not — decided or do the next step to sign up — hear this.

It’s a plebe’s view, full of holes. An unentitled person who incidentally shares your fears in this time of disease. For we are plagued by Covid-19, the omnipresent threat.

And we wonder, can salvation lie in a syringe?

Should we accept the jab when social media’s abuzz with all sorts of anecdotal information meshed with news? Impairing our sense of judgement. Our timelines and WhatsApp groups, how to ignore them?

The power of exaggerations has gone nuclear thanks to the forward button. Sorry, forwarded many times.

Of how the proposed solution ends up killing. It sends chills down our collective spines.

But consider the probability of it.

A chance only, pretty damn remote, though I admit a chance remains a chance. In a world accustomed to unverified information, the audience stopped differentiating the possible from probable.

All possible is probable, in the post-truth era.

However, consider this. The increasingly contrarian view.

All medicine, like all of life, has risks. This is not to reject the notion cures can go wrong, but to emphasise the people deciding these things do not approve the cures lightly, on a whim.  

A nurse holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the Dewan Gemilang UKM vaccination centre in Bangi May 5, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
A nurse holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the Dewan Gemilang UKM vaccination centre in Bangi May 5, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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I’m up for this Saturday, to get my dose. Can’t wait.

Cognisant of the risks but hope overwhelms my fears. I’m glad for that.

Speaking of vaccines, let’s look at previous editions for other maladies.

The Salk vaccine which triumphed over polio took six years to be ready from the start line. 

Under usual circumstances, when not pressed to respond in record time, 10 to 15 years to develop a vaccine is par for the course.

Researchers have worked on an AIDS vaccine for more than 35 years. Talk about all the various tests on various working vaccines have gone on for more than a decade. 

It makes news here and there, but never quite completed. They have to test, collect data and endure thorough screening before allowed to release.

“Maybe it works” is not good enough.

So why rush the Covid-19 vaccine?

The thing is Covid-19 is not a lifestyle or selective disease, it hits us all. That’s my opening salvo.

The globe is frozen by the virus. Look at us in Malaysia, since we are trapped at home and only can see two streets down to get our take-away dinners. Surely, the question is when does this end?

And the answer is obvious, when the vaccine intercedes enough.

Information about daily transmissions, regional comparisons, mortality and our economic status because of Covid-19 drowns us daily. It’s incessant, but the ray of hope — vaccines — changed the tone of the conversation last year.  

Did you not sigh when the first news of the vaccine reached your screen? Smiled a bit more when talking to family later about it?

If so, why balk when it is time to take the vaccine?

I was not aware how much people resisted till the truth hit home.

A fortnight ago, during the AstraZeneca voluntary sign-up period, I repeatedly reminded my brother over and over to register. Despite being literate, stable and responsible, he could not immediately sign up. He had doubts.

By the time he did, my nagging notwithstanding, he only managed to be on the waitlist.

Imagine the consternation elsewhere. We need to react if we support the vaccination programme.

I don’t want to go 15 rounds with anyone over the relative superiority of the different vaccines. At some point, trust must come to bear. Arguments on efficacy, side-effects and the amazing off-chance of developing a clot do not by any imagination overwhelm the one simple benefit of the vaccine.

It’s a huge step to stop the spread, suffering and deaths.

It’s in the direction of bringing us back to normal life.

Modern medicine is not treating us like guinea pigs, it is merely treating us.

Which explains why I am taking the vaccine.

To be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Helping the rest

I want to move forward from that. How can we get more people to sign up?

Individuals — that’s you — and corporations have to step up.

In the time when polio or smallpox shots were administered across the developing world, I’m not sure the presence of doctors and nurses alone did the job. People are people, and they like to be assured, especially by those near them.

Grassroots organisers, whether just blue-collar folks themselves, had to speak up and reach out to bring the people to those doctors and nurses. This is what we need now. Our community leaders to step up, to use all the social capital they have to convince people about the vaccines.

While the AstraZeneca slots were filled in record time, the number of no-shows at the vaccination centres should worry all. Because if a self-selecting group of people who already worked out the pros and cons developed misgivings later, how about the rest?

They were riddled by fear closer to their appointments, I suspect.

And if from that group, there are pull-outs, does that not suggest there’ll be much higher hesitation from the larger population?

So, yes, pick the phone up and call someone. Tell them, they can either be part of the solution or part of the problem. Say it nicely and thank them before they even agree. Mention this is their contribution to the country.

That’s individuals, how about companies?

Buku Fixi, the independent publisher, offers now a free book to all who get vaccinated. Awesome does not cover their wonderful gesture. They are paying for their convictions.

Now our eyes turn to other conglomerates.

All the major companies, always pride in being with society, leading the way of change. I did not see one of them do a Raya ad to persuade Malaysians to get vaccinated. Too late for that, but they can use the commercial vehicles they possess to induce sign-ups.

Inducements are neither new nor wrong.

Blood donors get cakes, drinks and free second-class public healthcare. Yes, they are helping others but it is not wrong to help them back.

The brilliant PR companies these companies have on retainer can surely in record time come up with outstanding plans to connect their clients with the vaccination programme. A dinner plate here, a dinner plate there might just get the numbers up.

I’ll look out for them, the conscientious contributions of our large, loving corporations.

But to the rest of us. A final plea.

It is ok not to be sure. That’s normal. Just remember the vaccine is hope. And hope is a good thing.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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