The COVID-19 Vaccination: A Precious Date – Part Two

A sense of eagerness, apprehension, suspicion and a dash of hope. How do you prepare and what can you expect? Prof Dr James Koh Kwee Choy, Head of Division of Medicine, School of Medicine, International Medical University (IMU) helps to answer these questions as he recalls his first date…with the COVID-19 vaccine

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The Second Date

The second dose comes within three weeks after the first (or depends which vaccine you were administered). If you can’t make the stipulated date and time, you can reschedule it. “Just don’t leave it for too long. Although all is not lost if you miss your second dose, some studies have shown that one dose still offers some protection but it is important to have both doses to ensure maximum efficacy,” says Prof James.

In his experience, the second appointment was much faster than the first, taking just a bit more than an hour. “There is no briefing and counselling session and no forms to fill for the second dose,” he explains.

Your body will build up protection against the virus in about two weeks after the secondThe COVID-19 Vaccination: A Precious Date – Part Two dose. This does not mean that you are no longer susceptible to the virus. “You can still get infected. The vaccine does not protect you from the virus. What it does is to prevent you from getting a severe case of COVID-19 that can lead to death,” he says.

At this point, many people might start to question the need for vaccination if this is the case. But Prof James explains: “After you are vaccinated if you get infected, the infection will not be as severe. If the infection is mild, the virus load is less. This means you are less likely to spread it and if you do, it will also be milder.”

Not Everyone is a Match

There are two groups of people though who should take precautions. Firstly, those whose immune systems have been suppressed for example if you are undergoing chemotherapy or if you are living with HIV/AIDs. Secondly, are those with a history of anaphylactic shock.

“If you are in any of these groups, check with your doctor who will monitor and advise you about taking the vaccine as your body needs to be stable before you do,” he says.

Others may have to delay their jabs. This is the case if you have received another vaccine, for instance, the flu or hepatitis B vaccine, in the two weeks prior to your appointment date. “You will be asked to reschedule your COVID-19 vaccine shot,” Prof James says. “This is to allow the body time to recover from the other vaccines.”Another reason for a delay would be if you have had a COVID-19 infection. “In Malaysia, a 3-month gap between recovery from COVID-19 and vaccination is practised,” Prof James says.

This may seem counterintuitive — do we not develop our own antibodies? “Yes, but that’s not enough,” Prof James explains. “Someone who has had the COVID-19 virus will develop antibodies, but studies have indicated that they only last for about 6 months.”

“You should therefore still register for the vaccination just like everyone else. You do not need to take any other tests,” he adds.

To Love and Protect

“All of us who can take it, should do so because we’re the ones who can protect those who are not as strong,” says Prof James.

To gain herd immunity, 80% of the population needs to be vaccinated. That means most of us to need to take the jab. Using a war analogy, Prof James likens it to having a city fortified with able people protecting the very young, the sick and the old. “If we do that, we have a better chance of winning. But if we all start to say that we don’t want to fight and that we just want others to fight on our behalf, what will happen?” he asks.

There is still one big question hanging in the air for many: “Is one vaccine better than the other?”

Make That Commitment

The COVID-19 Vaccination: A Precious Date – Part Two
Mutating virus concept and new coronavirus variant outbreak or covid-19 viral cell mutation and influenza background as dangerous flu strain medical health risk with disease cells as a 3D render.

What about those who want to wait it out? According to Prof James, “There is no point in waiting. Herd immunity needs to happen as quickly as possible as the virus will mutate (as we are experiencing now in the country). The faster we are able to vaccinate people, the less time the virus will get to mutate in the community. This means we cut down the chances that it will evolve into something even more deadly.”

Prof James also explains that it is a misconception that the two doses are the only ones we will ever need to take. “That’s not the case. The virus will mutate and you will need to get booster shots regularly.” This means whether you wait or you don’t, booster shots will be part of our life for the foreseeable future.

“Get the vaccine because we’re not just protecting ourselves but protecting others,” he says. And if you are still hesitating, heed his words: “If we do not reach herd immunity, it may not take away the personal protection of those who are vaccinated…but what it does mean is that we might live from one MCO to another.”

Final Tips:

On the day

  • Turn up early for the appointment. (about half an hour before the appointment time).
  • Wear loose clothing that allows doctors to easily access your shoulder.
  • Remember to bring your mobile phone with your MySejahtera ID and your NRIC.
  • A briefing and verification of your identity. You will need to scan several QR codes with your mySejahtera app.
  • There will be a short counselling session by a doctor who will review your medical history such as past medical problems, allergies, etc.
  • If this is cleared, you will need to sign the consent form saying that you are agreeable to the vaccine. This is only during the first dose.
  • You can then proceed to vaccination. It is better to be injected on your non-dominant hand, as most people experience soreness and pain at the injection area.
  • You will need to stay for observation for 30 minutes. You will be monitored for any severe reactions.
  • You will receive a notification for your second dose (between 2-3 weeks after). The second dose will be much faster as there will be no counselling or briefing session.
  • After the second dose, you will be given a card to verify that you have received both doses. This card will also be available in your mySejahtera app.