Thanks to the launch of the country’s vaccination program, our seemingly endless months of WFH, wearing masks, and social distancing may finally come to an end.
It is carried out in 3 phases, with frontliners having priority. With troubled Malaysians waiting for us, there are still many doubts about the vaccines. Who can and cannot get it? Do they mean that life can go back to normal immediately?
To remove our doubts, Vulcan Post spoke to Professor Poppema, President of the School of Medical and Health Sciences at Sunway University. He is also a specialist in immunopathology, the study of how disease affects the immune system.
1. I am afraid to get vaccinated. Why should I do that?
He sent his vaccination to dispel any doubts Malaysians had about the vaccines
“First of all, accept that you are not only doing this for yourself, but for society as a whole,” said Prof. Poppema. They protect your parents, grandparents and children, the latter of whom are still unable to receive the vaccines due to limited clinical studies.
There are currently three main approaches to developing a vaccine, which is why many types are currently being tested and used. The side effects for everyone would be different.
Prof. Poppema explained: “The denatured virus vaccines hardly cause any side effects. The vaccines that produce the strongest immune response, like the Pfizer vaccine, also have the strongest side effects and are equivalent to flu-like symptoms for about a day. ”
“The clinical studies in phases 1, 2 and 3 were carried out in accordance with all regulations in different countries. The results show that all approved vaccines are safe and effective. Effective means that all of this can prevent serious illnesses, ”he also assured.
2. What is the point of being vaccinated if I could still infect myself and infect others?
“Vaccination has been shown to protect against serious illness because the immune system is primed and ready to turn on immediately to prevent the virus from spreading,” he told the Vulcan Post.
Think of the vaccine as a test battle for your immune system to learn how to fight the disease if or when it actually occurs.
In addition, the vaccine helps limit the growth of the virus in a person’s body. This means that even if you are infected, you will only spread minimal amounts for a very short period of time.
“The real goal is to narrow the possibilities for the virus to the point where it disappears from society,” added the professor.
3. Will the vaccine change my genetic code?
In response to the rumors about microchips, autism, infertility, etc., Prof. Poppema shared his disappointment with the fear mongers. He confirmed that none of these jokes are scientifically based.
“Another example is the misconception that RNA can change our genome. There is a one-way way in which DNA codes for RNA, which in turn codes for a protein. It doesn’t work the other way around, ”he clarified.
DNA and RNA are the instructions that our cells use to make proteins. In our cells, DNA is first converted into messenger RNA, which is then used as a blueprint for the production of specific proteins. / Photo credit: WHO
To address these concerns, repetitive explanations and the correct example should be given.
Quoting the example of the prime minister being a cancer survivor, he sent himself out, seeing the vaccine as the right move to show the public that there are no serious risks.
4. Nobody is forcing me to take the 2nd dose. So what if I don’t?
“People must be asked to receive the second dose,” confirmed Prof. Poppema.
This is because the vaccine offers limited protection after the first dose and its effectiveness is greatly increased after the second dose. “This is a very basic immunological principle where the second dose boosts the immune response that was then present,” he told Vulcan Post.
In essence, failing to receive the second would mean that you would become more susceptible to the virus again.
5. What if I get a bad allergic reaction?
Those who are advised not to receive the vaccine are those who have serious allergies to certain drugs with similar ingredients as the vaccines.
This can lead to a rare but serious side effect called anaphylaxis, which includes swelling of the face and body, difficulty breathing, and a drop in blood pressure. Some people developed this after taking the COVID-19 vaccine, but it’s a risk that only affects a very small group of people.
Regardless, doctors are always prepared for someone to unexpectedly get a serious allergic reaction from vaccination.
“That’s why you have to stay for a while after the injection. Those who have such an allergic reaction should not take the second dose. But remember, this is an extremely unusual situation, ”explained Prof. Poppema.
6. Is this a one-time vaccine like the BCG and HPV vaccines? Or is it like the flu vaccine we get it on regularly?
Prof. Poppema stated it was not clear how long the vaccines will protect for the time being, but there is evidence that those who survived COVID-19 still have protective antibodies after a year. He added that new infections are extremely rare.
The main reason for an annual flu shot is that it is optimized each year for the many flu virus variants that are not yet the case with COVID-19.
Even so, scientists are carefully monitoring the mutations in the virus. If necessary, the vaccines can be adjusted quickly, said the immunopathologist.
Photo credit: Sunway University
“There is some evidence that the South African variant has mutations that make it less sensitive to the effects of some vaccines, although other vaccines may work well,” he warned.
“The bottom line is that we should vaccinate as many people as possible as soon as possible because the virus then has no chance of multiplying and acquiring new mutations.”
7. Why can’t pregnant woman be vaccinated in the first 2 trimesters?
“It is currently recommended that pregnant people not be vaccinated,” said Prof. Poppema. This is because so far there have been attempts to test the vaccines on such groups so there is no evidence that they are harmless.
“However, there is definitely no evidence that it is harmful either. These studies are ongoing and I would expect no serious side effects to be found, ”he added.
Since the vaccine is unsafe for those in the first and second trimesters, he reiterated that it is not a precautionary measure.
Based on his understanding, he explained: “In the first and second trimester the development of the organs takes place, while in the third trimester the child only increases in size. Therefore, in theory, there is a risk in the earlier stages of pregnancy. “
8. Can immunocompromised / autoimmune patients be vaccinated?
Immunocompromised patients find themselves in a difficult situation. While they are at a higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 symptoms, the vaccines may not work well in these patients either, as their immune systems may not be strong enough to fight off the study. So it is up to herd immunity to protect them.
For example, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy fall into this category. Your treatment works by killing all cells, both cancer and disease-fighting cells. Therefore, they do not respond adequately to the vaccine.
“When the chemotherapy is over and the immune cells return, they can be vaccinated,” added Prof. Poppema.
9. Can the vaccine be taken by someone who unknowingly is already infected with COVID-19?
Photo credit: Unsplash
The specialist said it can happen and has happened before during clinical trials. Because of such cases, he told Vulcan Post that there is no additional risk of getting vaccinated even if you have an early-stage infection.
“Remember that the protection will not be fully effective until after the second dose. Continue to take the same precautions as before, including social distancing and a face mask, ”he said.
10. When will COVID-19 be eradicated once we reach herd immunity?
That’s the million dollar question. Prof. Poppema announced that the results overseas are promising.
In some countries it has already been shown that after vaccination of part of the population, the number of infections in this segment of the population drops dramatically within a few weeks, while it may still progress in the majority of the population.
Professor Poppema, specialist in immunopathology.
So he confidently told Vulcan Post that COVID-19 will be eradicated in a few months when 80% of the population is vaccinated.
However, this assumes that vaccinations are carried out worldwide. The risk of the virus smoldering in certain areas can lead to mutations. This can lead to virus variants that are resistant to the vaccine and then reintroduced into disease-free areas.
Ultimately, life should return to normal once the country’s vaccination program is completed. In the meantime, we can join MySejahtera as the vaccine is voluntary and free for Malaysians.
While we wait for our twists and turns and for the rest of the Malaysian and global populations to be vaccinated to get their shots too, we continue to follow the current SOPs.
- You can find out more about Professor Poppema here.
- You can find more articles on COVID-19 vaccines here.
Selected image source: Professor Poppema, specialist in immunopathology and president of Sunway University / Unsplash