COVID-19 Vaccines in Malaysia – what you need to know

COVID-19 Vaccines in Malaysia - what you need to know

Why is the COVID vaccine important/why should you get vaccinated?

The COVID-19 vaccination protects you from the disease, which can kill or cause lasting disabilities. When many people are vaccinated, the COVID-19 virus will not spread as easily or as fast. This also protects people around you who are very old, very young, or cannot get vaccinated. This phenomenon is called herd immunity. It keeps everyone safe and healthy.

The vaccine does not provide 100% immunity against COVID-19. There is still a chance you will become infected. But if you are vaccinated, you will not become as sick. You will be at lower risk of complications, including lasting damage to your heart, lungs and even brain. Even when you are vaccinated, continue to take precautions such as social distancing, masking, and avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated areas.

How did vaccines come out so fast?

Experience

COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus. This type of virus also includes the viruses that cause the common cold, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).

Scientists have been studying coronaviruses for over 50 years. They had existing data on the structure, genes and life cycle of coronaviruses to build on. The mRNA technology used in certain vaccines has been studied for nearly 30 years.

Scientists have been studying coronaviruses for over 50 years. This meant scientists had existing data on the structure, genome, and life cycle of this type of virus. four that can cause the common cold, as well as the coronaviruses that sparked the SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, epidemic in 2002 and the emergence of MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome, in 2012. mRNA tech nearly 30 years old, studied for vaccine purposes for almost 20 years

Worldwide collaboration

Normally, making a vaccine can take up to 10 – 15 years. This is because vaccine development is complex. But the dangers of COVID-19 meant that the time period needed to be shortened in any way possible. Researchers around the world quickly mobilized to share their coronavirus data with other scientists in other countries. Researchers successfully uncovered the viral sequence of SARS-CoV-2 in January 2020, around 10 days after the first reported cases in Wuhan, China. This worldwide cooperation directly let us speed up research and clinical trials.

Concentrated funding and support

In the U.S., Operation Warp Speed (OWS) partnered with multiple institutions, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to develop, manufacture, and distribute 300 million doses by early next year.

Because it is so crucial to find a cure or vaccine for COVID-19, money, resources and support were focused on these efforts to speed them up.

Accelerated clinical trials

A clinical trial includes different phases of testing for patient safety and health. However, because so many trials are going on at once, some trials ran different phases at the same time to save time.

Researchers also used rolling reviews, which meant they were providing regulatory agencies with data as they received it throughout the trial, instead of delivering it all at the end of a trial. This helped other researchers to learn what was working and what was not, so everyone could learn from the data and improve their vaccine candidates.

The number of clinical trials

Scientists and doctors are looking into many different ways to vaccinate against COVID-19, using many different kinds of technology. Even if one method doesn’t work, another one can prove effective. And many different vaccines also mean that if you cannot take a specific vaccine for any reason, there are other options that will protect you and other people.

Are the vaccines safe?

The COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same research, testing and safety processes as other vaccines. If you do not have comorbidities or allergies, you should get vaccinated.

What about the side effects?

The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine that have been reported are usually mild and temporary. The most commonly reported side effects are:

  • pain/swelling/redness at the injection
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • chills
  • muscle pain
  • joint pain
  • nausea
  • swelling of the lymph nodes
  • feeling generally unwell

The AstraZeneca vaccination in particular has been associated with a risk of blood clots. However, this is a very small risk, calculated at one in 100,000 by the European Medicines agency. Out of 18 million people vaccinated in the UK, 30 developed blood clots and 7 died. This is a lower risk than a woman taking birth control pills (0.0009%) or contracting COVID-19 (11.2%).

How different COVID-19 vaccines work 

Each COVID-19 vaccine causes your immune system to create antibodies to fight COVID-19. They use different ways to alert your immune system to take action.

Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines deliver instructions to cells to make the S protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. After your cells do this, they display the proteins on their surfaces. Your immune system recognises the S proteins as foreign, and starts making antibodies for them. If the actual COVID-19 virus infects you, these antibodies will fight the virus. After the instructions are delivered, the mRNA immediately breaks down. It does not affect the DNA in your cells.

Vector vaccines use genetic material from the COVID-19 virus, placed in a safer, different kind of virus. When the viral vector enters your cells, it delivers genetic material from the COVID-19 virus that tells them to make copies of the S protein. When your cells display these proteins on their surface, your immune system makes antibodies for them and primes defensive white blood cells to react.

An inactivated vaccine uses the dead COVID-19 virus to trigger an immune reaction. Although the virus is dead and cannot harm you, your immune system can learn to recognise and fight the virus if you get infected after. This is the same technology used to create flu, polio and other well-known vaccines.

What kinds of vaccines are available in Malaysia?

Three kinds of vaccines are currently approved for the Malaysian vaccination program. Two more are still under evaluation as of May 2021.

AstraZeneca

viral vector vaccine, UK
Total no. of doses ordered: 12.8 million 

The AstraZeneca vaccine is jointly produced by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. This is a two-dose vaccine with an efficacy rate of 62-90%.

Pfizer-BioNTech

mRNA vaccine, USA
Total no. of doses ordered: 32 million

Unlike traditional vaccines, the Pfizer vaccine contains only synthetic components and not a live virus. It is given in two doses and is 95% effective. However, the vaccine must be shipped and stored at -75°C for it to stay effective, making it more expensive.

Sinovac

inactivated vaccine, China
Total no. of doses ordered: 12 million

The Sinovac vaccine is suitable for those with weak immune systems and is currently being used in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Brazil, Cambodia, Turkey, and Chile. It is 50.4 – 91.25% effective.

CanSino Biologics (under evaluation)

viral vector vaccine, China

Total no. of doses ordered: 3.5 million

CanSino Biologics co-developed this vaccine with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology and the Academy of Military Medical Sciences. While Malaysia is still evaluating this vaccine, it is also the only that can be administered in one shot among our five choices. It has a 65.7 percent efficacy rate.

Sputnik V (under evaluation)

viral vector, Russia

Total no. of doses ordered: 6.4 million 

This vaccine is made by Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, and administered in two doses about three weeks apart. The vaccine is 91.6% effective and can be stored in standard refrigerators at temperatures of -2°C to -8°C. This makes it easier and cheaper to transport than Pfizer vaccines.

Which should I choose?

As of 1 June 2021, you cannot choose which vaccine you end up getting. But the first vaccine you can get to protect yourself is the best choice. 

Get vaccinated as soon as you can and help spread herd immunity. If you already have an appointment, follow instructions and get your vaccination on the day. You can learn more on the official website, vaksincovid.gov.my, and get help online or through the official vaccine hotline, 1800-888-828.

Resources

Alexandra T. (2021) Coronavirus: Everything you need to know about the AstraZeneca vaccine’s blood clot risk [Accessed: 10 April 2021] Available at: https://news.yahoo.com/astra-zeneca-vaccine-blood-clot-risk-explained-115943638.html 

Cathy C., Jennifer C. (2021) Here’s How It Was Possible to Develop COVID-19 Vaccines So Quickly [Accessed: 10 April 2021] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/heres-how-it-was-possible-to-develop-covid-19-vaccines-so-quickly

Jocelyn S., Yella H., Ph.D. (2020) How did we develop a COVID-19 vaccine so quickly? [Accessed: 10 April 2021] Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/how-did-we-develop-a-covid-19-vaccine-so-quickly

JKJAV (2021) FAQ [Accessed: 10 April 2021] Available at: https://www.vaksincovid.gov.my/en/faq/

Justinas K., Rokas L., Amanda H. (2021) Health Expert Compares Pfizer-BioNTech And Moderna Covid-19 Vaccines, Goes Viral [Accessed: 10 April 2021] Available at: https://www.boredpanda.com/pfizer-vs-moderna-covid-19-vaccine/ 

Katie M. (2020) How Was the COVID-19 Vaccine Developed So Fast? [Accessed: 10 April 2021] Available at: https://www.houstonmethodist.org/blog/articles/2020/dec/how-was-the-covid-19-vaccine-developed-so-fast/

L Renee W., RN (2021) How Were the COVID-19 Vaccines Made So Fast? [Accessed: 10 April 2021] Available at: https://myhealth.ucsd.edu/Coronavirus/134,263

Mayo Clinic Staff (2021) Comparing the differences between COVID-19 vaccines [Accessed: 10 April 2021] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/coronavirus-covid-19/vaccine/comparing-vaccines

Mayo Clinic Staff (2021) Different types of COVID-19 vaccines: How they work

Print [Accessed: 30 May 2021] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/different-types-of-covid-19-vaccines/art-20506465

Robert C. (2020) AstraZeneca vaccine: How do you weigh up the risks and benefits? [Accessed: 10 April 2021] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/explainers-56665396 

Robert H. (2021) New Study Finds ‘Small’ Blood Clot Risk After One AstraZeneca Vaccine Dose, Rates Are Higher Than Expected For General Population [Accessed: 10 May 2021] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthart/2021/05/06/new-study-finds-small-blood-clot-risk-after-one-astrazeneca-vaccine-dose-rates-are-higher-than-expected-for-general-population/ 

Tania J. (2021) The 5 Covid-19 Vaccines In Malaysia’s National Vaccination Programme [Accessed: 10 April 2021] Available at: https://my.asiatatler.com/life/vaccines-in-malaysias-covid-vaccination-programme-pfizer-astrazeneca-sinovac-cansinobio-sputnik-v 

World Health Organization (2021) The different types of COVID-19 vaccines [Accessed: 10 April 2021] Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/the-race-for-a-covid-19-vaccine-explained

Ghows A. (2021) Yes, for the approved vaccines that we have now… [Accessed: 30 May 2021] Available at: https://twitter.com/Ghows/status/1397852148885458945