On 18 March 2020, Malaysia officially entered lockdown due to COVID-19. Today, it finally feels like the end is in sight.
This has not been an easy journey by any standards.
Over the past year, thousands of Malaysians have been infected, lost their jobs or suffered from the physical and mental stress of having to change our lifestyles in such a drastic way. But with over 83.1% of Malaysian adults fully vaccinated, I’d like to believe that this will be our last year in lockdown.
Unfortunately, while the vast majority of Malaysians are willing to do their part to end this pandemic, there are many others who… aren’t.
The Dangers of Being Unvaccinated
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), around 80% of Malaysian hospital patients currently compose of the unvaccinated.
In a recent interview with Bernama, consultant emergency medicine specialist Dr Ahmad Tajuddin Mohamad Nor revealed that about two-thirds of COVID-19 patients being treated at Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital (HTAR) are made up of anti-vaxxers.
“Almost all (of those under 60 who were hospitalised) have not been vaccinated. There is still that group missing out on vaccinations,” he said.
While there have been vaccinated patients as well, Dr Tajuddin pointed out that being vaccinated can significantly improve your chances of survival.
“We noticed that stark difference. If you’re vaccinated, it’s very unlikely you’re going to turn any worse,” he said. “If you (are unvaccinated and) present yourself in less severe stages, you may deteriorate quite rapidly.”
Despite these dangers, anti-vaxxer groups have been growing alarmingly over the past year. Although their actual numbers represent only a small percentage of the population, anti-vaxxers have used social media to spread their misinformation far and wide.
To make matters worse, local anti-vaxxers have recently been caught attempting to buy fake vaccination certificates, potentially endangering everyone around them for the sake of their personal beliefs.
Debunking Anti-Vaxxer Myths
To challenge these anti-vaxxer group’s misinformation, The Full Frontal contacted Dr. Jessie Shunmugam, a general paediatrician currently working in Hospital Umra Shah Alam. With over 30 years of healthcare experience, Dr. Shunmugam has dealt with her fair share of anti-vaxxer patients in the past.
“While some of them can be counselled into changing their minds, the majority are stubborn and stick to their beliefs,” she said. “… some of them are heavily influenced by family members who are firmly against it. Some for religious reasons. However, I have found that most of them have no solid reason for being against vaccinations.”
Despite all this, Dr. Shunmugam believes that it is still important to speak with anti-vaxxers and convince them to change their minds if at all possible. As such, here are some truths behind the top 10 common anti-vaxxer myths floating around the internet today:
Myth #1: “I don’t need the vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19”
Reality: You still need to get the vaccine even if you’ve already been infected before.
“It has been known that infection after vaccine is definitely milder. However, we cannot say for sure how serious a reinfection after a previous COVID-19 infection could get, given this is a new virus.”
Myth #2: “Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take the vaccine”
Reality: While it’s fine to consult your doctor if you’re worried, it’s still advisable to get vaccinated, if possible.
“For pregnant women, there are two lives involved if they get infected,” said Dr. Shunmugam, who recommended that pregnant women should get vaccinated during their second trimester, if possible.
“Lactating women would also be advised to vaccinate themselves as any antibodies they develop could be passively passed on to their babies via breastmilk, conferring some amount of immunity to the new-born as well.”
Myth #3: “The COVID-19 vaccine can make you sterile”
Reality: It doesn’t. COVID-19, on the other hand, can cause erectile dysfunction even after recovery.
“The myth claiming to affect women’s fertility was based on a report on social media,” she said. “It claimed that the vaccine would cause women’s bodies to fight the Syncitin-1 spike protein (which is involved in the growth of the placenta during pregnancy). However, these 2 spike proteins (the COVID-19 & Syncitin-1 spike proteins) are completely different.”
“Thus, there is no basis to this myth.”
Myth #4: “The vaccine is unsafe because its development has been rushed”
Reality: This is like accusing the iPhone 13 of being rushed because it came out a year after the iPhone 12.
“These vaccines were created with a method that has been in development for years,” pointed out Dr. Shunmugam. “With the input from China, who promptly shared genetic information about COVID-19, scientists were able to work on the vaccines from an early stage.”
“Although it seems like a rushed job, it wasn’t. Developing the COVID-19 vaccine involved tweaking a method that was already underway.”
Myth #5: “I don’t need to wear a mask or practice social distancing after getting the vaccine”
Reality: Keep your masks on, especially around those who are still vulnerable.
“We should also remember that although we may be vaccinated, there may be others among us who have not been. While the vaccinated may have a milder disease if infected, it may not be the same for someone else in the community.”
“As such, it is our civic duty to continue to protect the vulnerable.”
Myth #6: “The COVID-19 vaccine enters your cells and changes your DNA”
Reality: That’s not how DNA works. That’s not how any of this works!
“mRNA (molecules which carry genetic information needed to make proteins) from the vaccines that use this technology does enter the cells, but it does not enter the nucleus of the cells which is where our DNA resides. The mRNA does its job to cause the cells to make protein to stimulate our immune system.”
“It then breaks down without affecting the DNA.”
Myth #7: “The COVID-19 vaccine contains microchips”
Reality: No. Seriously, why would they need to inject people with microchips when everyone is already carrying a smartphone?
“COVID-19 vaccines contain the normal ingredients that most vaccines have. There are no microchips, implants, or tracking devices.”
Myth #8: “Taking the vaccine will make your body magnetic”
Reality: Having taken the vaccine myself, I’m sad to report that I still don’t have Magneto’s powers.
“There is no basis to this claim, as, I repeat, COVID-19 vaccines do not contain microchips, implants, or tracking devices.”
Myth #9: “Taking the vaccine will make me test positive for COVID-19”
Reality: Not quite. Vaccinated people might have a positive antibody, but not a positive infection.
“Common COVID-19 detection tests like PCR or antigen tests will not test positive after the vaccine. A positive antibody test following your vaccination simply means that you are developing immunity to the disease, and not contracting the disease itself.”
Myth #10: “I can’t take the vaccine if I have food allergies (milk, eggs, etc.)”
Reality: This one… might actually have a grain of truth.
“People who have had severe allergic reactions after any other vaccine in the past, severe food allergies, or drug allergies should consult their healthcare provider before they get themselves vaccinated.”
Doing Your Part To End This Pandemic
The allergy thing aside, the vast majority of us have no excuse for skipping out on the vaccine.
Though it may be troublesome, sometimes we have to make small personal sacrifices for the greater good.
“It is every person’s responsibility to not only care for themselves, but for their families & the community at large,” said Dr. Shunmugam.
If you still haven’t gotten fully vaccinated yet but are interested in registering, be sure to check out: