Covid-19 vaccines bring relief to Malaysia's front-liners battling the pandemic

A total of 80,336 people in Malaysia have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as of March 3.
A total of 80,336 people in Malaysia have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as of March 3.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian front-liners who have been battling the coronavirus pandemic over the last one year expressed relief and hope as they received their first dose of the much-anticipated Covid-19 vaccine.

Nearly 100 medical, police and military personnel who have been stationed at the Covid-19 quarantine and treatment centre in Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang in Serdang, Selangor received the vaccination on Thursday (March 4).

The arrival of the vaccine shipments in Malaysia last month provided some form of reassurance to healthcare workers who have been treating Covid-19 patients since last year.

Mr Ebing Anak Chat, 33, a government nurse who handles some 2,000 Covid-19 patients in the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang, said he was "nervous but happy" after receiving his first dose of the vaccine.

"Hopefully, this will break the chain of transmission of Covid-19," Mr Anak Chat told The Straits Times.

Medical assistant Aiman Farisya Firdaus Kadry, 24, was also among the healthcare workers who got their shots on Thursday.

"I was nervous at first, but afterwards I felt relieved. There are a lot of conspiracy theories but they are all fake," she said, referring to false information on Covid-19 being spread on social media.

Another nurse, Ms Rosyamira Rosli, 26, did not have any hesitation about getting vaccinated and said it provided her with peace of mind.

"I feel better now that I am vaccinated. I am doing this to protect my family members and the public," she said.

Malaysia is currently administering Covid-19 vaccines to elected representatives, healthcare workers and other front-liners in the first phase of the vaccine roll-out, which began on Feb 24.

A total of 80,336 people in Malaysia have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as of March 3.

The next phase will involve high-risk groups, such as individuals with certain existing illnesses, and those above the age of 65.

The country aims to begin administering vaccines to the general populace, aged 18 and above, from May.

Foreigners based in Malaysia, including undocumented migrants, will also be vaccinated for free.

Mr Khairy Jamaluddin, the minister in charge of Covid-19 vaccinations, said last month that he will not be inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and will get a jab instead from one of the other vaccine providers to combat "selective vaccine hesitancy".

This was in response to public chatter that top officials and front-liners were "all taking Pfizer, the good stuff, while the others are meant for the ordinary people".

The first batch of the CoronaVac vaccine, developed by China's Sinovac Life Sciences, arrived in Malaysia last month, with some 300,000 doses.

Malaysia has inked a deal to buy a total of 25 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which cover 39 per cent of its population.

It has also ordered 6.4 million doses from British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, signed a deal for 12 million doses from China's Sinovac, and another 6.4 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine from Russia.

Malaysia is also in talks with US company Johnson & Johnson to procure its single-dose vaccine, for the vulnerable segments of its population, such as undocumented migrants, who may have difficulty returning for a second dose.

The government is targeting to deliver 500,000 doses by the end of the month.