Know Your Facts: COVID-19 Vaccines in Malaysia

The second wave of COVID-19 cases from December 2020 tore through Malaysia leaving destruction in its wake. Fortunately, the vaccination drive that kicked off on the 24th of February 2021 is Malaysia’s shining road back towards normalcy.1 However, with the vaccines being produced faster than ever, rumours beg the question, “Are the vaccines safe?”. The following diagrams list the side effect profile of the vaccines that will be administered in Malaysia.

To summarize, there is only a 10-14% chance of experiencing any side effect from the vaccines. If a side effect is experienced, there is a 90-94% chance that it will be short-term mild injection site reactions or flu-like symptoms. In fact, most of them are known to be relatively common amongst other vaccines for viral infections. Now, that’s not so bad!

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


How were the vaccines developed so fast without long-term studies?
The speed of the vaccines’ development is due to scientific advancements, major global investments and previous studies on outbreaks triggered by pathogens. Once China shared the viral genetic code in January 2020, scientists were able to quickly develop new vaccine platforms. Safety and scientific integrity were not compromised7

Does the vaccine affect my DNA?
No. It only enters our cells to use the machinery to make viral protein and is then broken down and discarded after use. mRNA NEVER enters the nucleus of the cell. Although viral vectors enter the nucleus, they do not integrate with our DNA9-10.

Any chance of long-term side effects?
The FDA required period for trials is 60 days which is the observation window of any and all long-term side effects of which, none were identified2-8.

What is the concern about the reported adverse event cases in Norway regarding Comirnaty (January 2021)?
The reports were in line with expected all-cause mortality rates in the ‘frail elderly individuals’ population. Plausible causes include the progression of pre-existing diseases. For some, palliative care was already initiated prior to vaccination. Thus, international health organisations such as WHO GACVS, PRAC and EMA concluded that there was no causal link to Comirnaty11.

What is the concern about severe allergic reactions reported globally on Comirnaty (January 2021)?
The low risk of anaphylaxis was known. There wil always be a small proportion of people who are susceptible, especially those with a history of it. Onset of anaphylaxis will be in minutes of exposure to the allergen in the vaccine. Recipients will be monitored for 15 minutes post-injections. Thus far, all anaphylaxis cases have been promptly detected, treated, and recovered from11.

What is the concern about the blood clot related adverse effects reported in Europe and UK on the AstraZeneca vaccine? 
Of 17 million vaccinations, fewer than 40 cases of blood clots had been reported as of 17th March 2021. According to the EMA, the rate of this adverse event is not higher than that expected in the general population. WHO and EMA have emphasised that there is currently no evidence linking the vaccine to blood clots and recommend their continued usage12.


References

  1. Malaysia to begin administering Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday. D Kanyakumari. (Web accessed March 2021) Web link: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/malaysia-covid-19-sinovac-khairy-jamaluddin-14410430 
  2. COMIRNATY® Concentrate for Dispersion for Injection. BioNTech Manufacturing GmbH. (Web accessed March 2021) Web link: https://quest3plus.bpfk.gov.my/front-end/attachment/286/pharma/537480/537480_20210228_132757_.pdf 
  3. Information leaflet for UK recipients of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca. MedImmune UK Ltd. (Web accessed March 2021) Web link: https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2021/01/Information_for_UK_recipients_COVID-19_Vaccine_AstraZeneca.pdf 
  4. CoronaVac Suspension for Injection SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (Vero Cell), Inactivated. Sinovac Life Sciences Co., Ltd. (Web accessed March 2021) Web link: https://quest3plus.bpfk.gov.my/front-end/attachment/5140/pharma/537719/V_52330_20210318_112302_D4.pdf 
  5. Safety and efficacy of an rAd26 and rAd5 vector-based heterologous prime-boost COVID-19 vaccine: an interim analysis of a randomised controlled phase 3 trial in Russia. Logunov et al. (2021). The Lancet
  6. Phase III Trial of A COVID-19 Vaccine of Adenovirus Vector in Adults 18 Years Old and Above. CanSino Biologics Inc. 2021. ClinicalTrials.gov
  7. National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme. JKJAV. (Web accessed March 2021) Web link: https://www.vaksincovid.gov.my/pdf/Program_Imunisasi_COVID-19_Kebangsaan_Versi_Bahasa_Inggeris.pdf 
  8. Try Guys Debunk COVID Vaccine Conspiracies With Dr. Fauci. The Try Guys. (Web accessed March 2021) Web link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDuaiYf8WDQ&ab_channel=TheTryGuys 
  9. Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (Web accessed March 2021) Web link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html 
  10. Understanding Viral Vector COVID-19 Vaccines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (Web accessed March 2021) Web link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/viralvector.html 
  11. Safety Updates on COVID-19 Vaccine (Comirnaty®). Wan Noor Ardila Binti Wan Abhar. National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA). (Web accessed March 2021) Web link: https://npra.gov.my/index.php/en/health-professionals/recent-updates/426-english/safety-alerts-main/safety-alerts-2021/1527198-safety-updates-on-covid-19-vaccine-cominarty.html
  12. U.S. health experts try to ease Covid vaccine fears as AstraZeneca’s shot faces review in Europe. Noah Higgins-Dunn. CNBC. (Web accessed March 2021). Web link: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/17/us-health-experts-try-to-ease-covid-vaccine-fears-as-astrazenecas-shot-faces-concerns-in-europe-.html