When COVID-19 first arrived, everyone believed that it wouldn’t be a big deal.
“Ceh, just need to stay at home for two or three weeks only!” I thought to myself as I read the news in February 2020. “Just think of it like a vacation and it’ll be over before you know it.”
Six months later, Malaysia was still in lockdown.
After months of being stuck at home, everyone seemed to have cabin fever. We were all looking for something, anything that would let us go out and resume our normal lives again.
Then, at last, everything changed when the vaccines arrived. Sure, there was grumbling and skepticism, even some straight up rejection from the real hardcore anti-vaxxer crowd. But for the most part, people were just relieved to have a way out.
Despite some initial concerns, today around 96.8% of Malaysia’s adult population is fully vaccinated. Whether it’s Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinovac or some other vaccine brand, the vast majority of us were willing to go and get our injections — even the skeptics were able to put their personal feeling aside to get this done.
So after all this time and trouble, why are they asking us to go and get even more injections?
What Is A Booster Shot Anyway?
Just as the name implies, a COVID-19 booster shot is meant to ‘boost’ the effectiveness of your vaccine.
Normally, a vaccine only remains fully effective for a certain period of time. After that, the effectiveness slowly fades. By taking a booster shot, you can maintain the vaccine’s effectiveness for longer.
Debunking Booster Shot Myths
Just like with the original vaccine, there has been plenty of confusion about what exactly is involved in a booster shot. Whether they’re fooled by fake news or simply have no idea what’s going on, plenty of people have questions or concerns about taking yet another injection.
To combat this disinformation, The Full Frontal has put together some answers for the most common booster shot myths floating around the internet today.
Myth #1: “Booster shots are proof that the COVID-19 vaccines don’t work!”
At this point, there have been plenty of studies published to prove that COVID-19 vaccines do work. However, it’s also been shown that people whose immune systems aren’t super healthy are likely to require a booster shot in order to improve their antibody levels and provide additional protection.
This group includes not only the elderly but also those who have had their immune systems compromised in some way — people who’ve had organ transplants, cancer patients, etc.
Myth #2: “Mixing up vaccines will kill you!”
According to molecular virologist Dr Vinod Balasubramaniam of the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences at Monash University Malaysia, there is no solid proof that mixing vaccines is bad.
In fact, it’s the opposite.
“Mix and match gained traction with the recently released data showing high efficacy and protection against various COVID strains,” he said. By combining two doses of vaccine, you can get better protection as your body learns more about how to create antibodies that block COVID-19.
Myth #3: “Getting a booster shot can be dangerous for older people!”
This particular myth was linked to rumours started after the death of Health Ministry’s Senior Principal Assistant Director Dr Chai Koh Meow on 17 November 2021 — a few weeks after receiving his COVID-19 booster shot.
However, on 26 November 2021, Health Director General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah announced that Dr Chai’s death was due to heart failure, not the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We would like to express condolences to the family of the late Dr Chai and thank his brother for allowing us to share the post-mortem results (with the public),” he said during a press conference.
Myth #4: “People who recieve their booster shots can suffer from side effects!”
As the booster shots are based on the original vaccines, they will naturally have the same chance of causing side effects. That said, these side effects are almost always going to be short term and relatively minor.
“All vaccines (not limited to COVID-19) will have after-effects,” said Dr Vinod. “This ranges from mild to moderate fever, chills and rigor, body aches, swelling at injection site, loss of appetite and swelling of lymph nodes.”
“These are NOT long term, and a good sign that our body’s immune system is put to work, producing antibodies against that particular antigen. Some of us have a more reactive immune system, where the after-effects are more prominent compared with others.”
Myth #5: “These booster shots are just the beginning! The government is going to force us to keep taking more and more injections!”
Answer: Not sure.
Putting aside all the melodramatic nonsense, the fact is that COVID-19 is a constantly evolving virus. This means that over time it will change and adapt in order to become better at infecting people.
According to epidemiologist Professor Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud of Universiti Malaya, medical professionals are currently still split on whether or not annual booster shots will be needed to combat COVID-19.
“Two things are not quite clear at this point,” he explained. “Firstly, does vaccination result in sufficient B-memory cells (which boost antibody production)? Secondly, what is the level of T-cells (white blood cells) in a person who has been vaccinated? This kind of data will inform us whether… annual boosters will be required.”
In other words, the number of booster shots we’ll need will depend on how effective our bodies become at blocking the COVID-19 virus.
Booster or Not, You Still Need to Follow SOP
No matter how many boosters we end up having to take, one thing is certain: we all need to stop being so careless about SOPs.
After all, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. All the medicines and booster shots in the world won’t be able to do much if everyone is just acting like we’ve returned back to pre-pandemic times.
Yet even simple things like wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and scanning your MySejahtera app seem to be too much trouble for some people. For more information about why it’s so important to remain vigilant about SOPs, be sure to check out: