Anti-vaxxers put us all at risk

WHEN people are stubborn and refuse to do things that are good for them alone, that is their choice and we may just leave it at that. But when they refuse or choose not to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus for whatever reasons, we certainly cannot leave them alone.

We all know that a person who is not vaccinated has zero protection against being infected by the virus. And what is worse, he or she by having such a misplaced stubbornness, can easily infect others, especially close family members.

As informed by medical experts, the virus in an unvaccinated person mutates and such mutation will have multiplier effects, not unlike what we have been experiencing these past weeks, with daily infection figures breaching the 20,000-mark.

There must have been thousands upon thousands of such infections involving those still awaiting to be vaccinated, as well as people infected by those who simply did not want to.

Earlier this year, the media reported that some 30,000 people in Kelantan who had registered for their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine failed to show up at vaccination centres. And similarly, another 20,000 did the same in Perak.

The fact that they registered for vaccination means that they were not originally anti-vaxxers. Perhaps they changed their minds upon reading reports on social media about the few isolated cases of some minor side-effects among some who had been vaccinated.

How can someone be so petty and have an attitude of being penny wise and pound foolish. Whatever little side-effects that one may have after inoculation is nothing compared to the effects or side-effects of NOT being vaccinated at all.

I was impressed with an interview by a local radio station with a senior citizen on Wednesday, in which the woman related her initial attitude of being an anti-vaxxer but later changed her mind after some persuasion by her children. To those still adamant at refusing to be vaccinated, her blunt advice was: “Please use your brain and heart”.

Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has driven home the message of how crucial it is for everyone to get vaccinated in order to keep the pandemic at bay. According to him, the death toll due to Covid-19 among those fully vaccinated so far is less than 0.001%.

As of Wednesday, the total death toll stood at 14,818. This indicates that the vast majority of those who perished in the past 18 months we have been battling with the pandemic were those who had yet to be vaccinated or fully vaccinated. I cannot think of a stronger message to anti-vaxxers to search their conscience than the above.

“It is our duty to protect the vulnerable population, and it is important to achieve herd immunity to protect those not eligible for vaccination, like children and
those not suitable for vaccination,” said Noor Hisham.

We are wrong to assume that most of the anti-vaxxers are people who are less educated members of society or the type easily influenced by negative stories – mostly fake news – about going through inoculation.

Johor was in the news for the wrong reason lately when it was reported that 779 teachers in the state had rejected vaccinations.

Teachers can be categorised as an “educated” group on account of their profession of teaching or imparting knowledge, and it is mind-boggling to think that they are not only being stubborn, but reckless in not protecting themselves from the virus, thus putting students at grave risk when schools reopen in October after a prolonged shutdown.

This even prompted the Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar to say: “Teachers should set an example to students and protect them, instead of placing them in danger, what more with schools reopening soon”. His son, Tunku Mahkota Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, later announced that he had summoned these teachers to meet him, at a meeting scheduled for today.

The state Education Department is calling these recalcitrant teachers individually to offer counselling on the importance of being vaccinated. The good news in Johor is that up until last week, over 45,000 teachers, or 96%, have received their first dose of vaccine, while about 23,000 have completed their vaccination.

“I will meet the teachers concerned. Our priority is to overcome the pandemic so the people and the state can return to life as (per) normal,” said the Tunku Mahkota.

The most extreme case among the anti-vaxxers was a soldier, who was dismissed from the army for refusing to be vaccinated. He even admitted that he was set to lose his pension, which he was eligible for in only 16 months. The soldier explained that he had a right to reject it and that his status as a soldier made him no different from any other Malaysian in terms of vaccination.

He gave three reasons for refusing inoculation, including that vaccination was not mandatory and the vaccine is “still experimental”. “I am not confident of any vaccine or medication put in my body when it is still in experimental stage,” he argued.

The army, however, was gracious enough to offer the soldier a second chance. Army chief Gen Tan Sri Zamrose Mohd Zain said he may be reinstated if he changes his mind and decides to get inoculated. The general said the soldier had undergone four counselling sessions but still refused to change his mind.

Those among us who have completed our vaccination or who readily, happily and impatiently are awaiting to get inoculated must belong to a species blessed with common sense.

We can only hope that the anti-vaxxers in our midst will slowly but surely come to their senses, instead of being a public enemy, given the high risks that they carry.