Now more than ever, taking a vaccine, any vaccine, remains the only available solution (until a cure is found) to protect ourselves, achieve herd immunity and stop the pandemic.
Unlike the majority of people, when I registered for the COVID-19 vaccine, I had to list my co-morbidities. In August 2020 I had undergone my last radiation session (following chemotherapy and surgery), so given the social media hysteria on vaccines and their side effects, I was a teeny bit concerned about the AZ jab.
But like the hashtag, I decided to take the shot. Why? Growing up, when we were given a cocktail of vaccines from rubella to polio, it didn’t occur to us or our parents what brands we were using. Social media was not in existence back then to sow the kind of doubt and misinformation there is now. To a large extent many of us suffer from “analysis paralysis” thanks to the too much information on the web. When in doubt? Go to the WHO portal, or ask your doctor.
I definitely needed to check in with my doctor to get a letter declaring I was healthy enough for the vaccine, and it’s a step I recommend for anyone living in doubt or fear, co-morbidities aside. Even then, my doctor’s letter had the words, “Please understand risks of AstraZeneca vaccine and consent form to be signed once fully understood.” We all have the right to decide for ourselves, but I felt I had a greater responsibility to public health, which is why I took the vaccine.
In my own consideration, I was coming off of cancer, where the risks of side effects and permanent damage inherent in the treatments are very real and well documented. I was very lucky that I only suffered hair loss (that will grow back) and muscle loss (takes longer to grow back as it requires discipline in exercise). Chemotherapy was the only curative option to nuke the tumour to kingdom come. So I did it. I applied the same logic when it came to the vaccines and whether to take it or not.
When I participated in the voluntary program for the AZ jab organised by the Malaysian government and my appointment was confirmed, I felt like I had won the lottery or entrance to Comic-Con (the same mechanism applies for the latter – finger on the mouse trigger for a chance to get in, and yes I am a nerd). Within 24 hours, my time slot was confirmed via the MySejahtera app and by text. I quickly organised a check-up with my doctor and with the “all clear to take vaccine” letter, I showed up 15 minutes before my allocated time at the World Trade Centre.
From registration to taking the jab to sitting in the observation hall, I was in and out in 40 minutes. Despite the number of people there, everything moved smoothly, akin to driving in the centre of town when all the lights are green. Everyone was friendly and helpful, and there was always a spare pen to fill out forms.
The injection itself wasn’t painful – it’s a teeny tiny needle, but perhaps when you have had IV’s stuck up your veins for two hours during chemo, a jab like this is a walk in the park. I was also lucky that the side effects were minimal for me – I just felt very tired and more dopey than usual, four hours after the injection. I took a Panadol before I slept and woke up feeling normal.
My husband had a slightly different reaction – he only felt it perhaps 12 hours later, and the side effect he experienced was the “will I or won’t I get the flu tomorrow?” feeling with tiredness, mild headache, and chills. He was back to normal within 24 hours. I also think that eating beef rendang and laksa three times each that day did not help him (it was the first day of Hari Raya (Eid) when the side effects took place).
In the name of public health, I took the shot. Yes with the AZ, it had been reported that *4 people in 1 million (in the UK) have suffered blood clots (number may vary by country). And about 20% of that number (about 0.5 people per million**) in the UK have died from said blood clot. Let’s put that death rate in context with road traffic accidents in Malaysia – it stands at 23 per hundred thousand*** or 230 per million. It’s a lot higher, but yet we all happily get in our cars every day.
For those of you who have existing medical conditions, are obese, unfit and sedentary, do consult your doctor. And if you don’t have any of the aforementioned, but are still worried, then consult your doctor. If you must read about it, I advise looking at government websites, the WHO and legitimate media companies who are licensed to publish. However, if you believe in conspiracy theories and unrecognised experts, there is not much I can suggest. My cynical mind tells me why would governments want to poison whole populations? Who is going to be around to pay taxes if they did that? But it’s up to you. However, I hope you can live with the consequences should you decide not to get vaccinated. Finally, do try to as much as you can, to read science facts and not science fiction.