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No-choice policy better, say experts

20 Apr 2021 / 10:26 H.

PETALING JAYA: In an ideal situation, Malaysians should be allowed to choose the type of Covid-19 vaccine they want but it is not feasible, say medical experts.

Head of the Independent Covid-19 Vaccination Advisory Committee under the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, Prof Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud, told theSun that being given a choice would appeal to many.

“This is because there are differences between vaccines in terms of severe adverse reactions, effectiveness, the possibility of vector immunity and the fact that some of these vaccines employ technologies that some people may not be comfortable with.”

Awang Bulgiba, who is also an epidemiologist at Universiti Malaya, stated that it is simply not feasible at the moment to allow people a choice, hence, the decision by the government for a no-choice policy.

“The main reasons include the cost and logistics of procuring, storing and administering so many different types of vaccines which, if not done properly, would lead to wastage and delay in vaccinations.”

Other influencing factors include the fact that we would require more funds to purchase so many vaccines and the potential for delay.

“As supplies of all vaccines at the moment are limited, this would mean that people would need to wait even longer for the vaccine of their choice. This will impact our timeline to achieve herd immunity and to prevent newer variants from emerging.”

However, countries such as Singapore have started to allow their citizens to choose their vaccine, which is either the Moderna shot or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The Moderna shot is being given at 11 out of the 38 vaccination centres in Singapore while the rest are using the Pfizer-BioNTech product.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said that allowing people to choose would be logistically difficult, since vaccines such as the Pfizer-BioNTech need to be kept in ultra-low temperature storage.

“In addition, each Pfizer-BioNTech vial can supply six doses. To avoid wastage, the exact number of people must be lined up to receive the available supply,” said MMA president Prof Datuk Dr M. Subramaniam.

Universiti Malaya Department of Social and Preventive Medicine head Dr Victor Hoe Chee Wai Abdullah said people should not be allowed to choose the type of vaccines as the supply worldwide and in Malaysia is limited.

“If we allow people to choose, then we will be denying others of the vaccine,” said Hoe.

Furthermore, he said by allowing vaccine options, people who have money will pay for the vaccine they would like and those really in need would not be able to get it.

Hoe also believes that as the efficacy and side effects of the various vaccines are complicated and difficult for the layman to understand, it would be better for healthcare professionals to decide which vaccine will offer the best protection.

This comes as Malaysia commenced Phase Two of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme yesterday, which involves 9.4 million people.

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