Forum: Why jabs should remain an encouraged but optional tool

I refer to Straits Times senior health correspondent Salma Khalik's commentary, "S'pore should make Covid-19 jabs mandatory so measures can be eased for all" (Sept 12).

I disagree with her view, particularly her insistence that the responsibility for opening up rests solely on the unvaccinated.

The death rate from Covid-19 is low and the medium- to long-term side effects of the vaccines are still unknown.

The diphtheria vaccine that she mentioned is compulsory now, but the use of an antitoxin was introduced in the 1890s and effective immunisation was widely applied in the 1920s. The first measles prototype vaccine was introduced in 1960 before a commercially available vaccine was produced in 1963.

All Covid-19 vaccines have been given approval for authorised use for less than a year. When the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs were rolled out for use early this year, no one was talking about heart inflammation or blood clots.

There were good intentions all around when people were told that thalidomide was not harmful and it took 50 years to get an apology for those adversely affected by it.

If the solution is to just vaccinate everyone anyway, the national vaccination programme will lurch along in a reactionary trajectory because the call is going to continually be "just take the next shot".

Those who are currently vaccinated will after all soon be under pressure to take more and more boosters.

Singapore has come a long way since the 1980s and 1990s. The Government takes a balanced approach to all national issues, including public health.

Vaccines should definitely stay an encouraged but optional tool, one of many to fight Covid-19, but not to split the nation.

Sanjay Pio Michael