By Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye
“There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune”. This is a quotation from Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’. In today’s parlance, it means we must strike while the iron is hot.
This is good advice to be heeded in any given the situation we find ourselves in.
Today we are facing a pandemic the likes of which the majority of us have never seen, experienced or predicted.
All of us, without exception, have to face Covid-19. To face it is to find ways to stop it or curtail it. And the most effective way that is currently available to do this is through vaccination.
And we need at least 70 per cent of the population to be vaccinated before we can achieve herd immunity which Malaysia hopes to do by December.
This objective is however only achievable if the majority of people register for vaccination. So far, only a little less than 10 per cent of the population have registered.
This is an appeal to the rest to quickly register so that they, and the rest of us, can have a reasonable chance of returning to our old way of life which we have been missing for more than a year now.
Not only that, we also want to continue with good, healthy lives for ourselves, our families, our friends and our communities.
It has been reported that the reluctance on the part of some against vaccination is due to concerns over the safety of some of the available vaccines, especially of their side effects.
The world has seen many cases in the past when vaccines were used to stay diseases like polio and the Spanish flu.
Vaccines against polio have succeeded in eradicating the dreaded disease in all continents except in two countries in Asia-Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the polio vaccine also had side effects.
These side effects consisted of soreness, redness, swelling where the shot was administered, headache (low grade), fever, nausea, muscle aches, and fatigue. These are the very same side effects that we could expect from any other vaccine.
By no means are these side effects alarming or life-threatening. However, when the concerns are consistent, as in the case of AstraZeneca, it must be noted that Malaysia has not yet used that vaccine, and the assurance has been given that it may be considered only after a complete review is undertaken by the relevant authorities.
We must remember that, unlike all the previous cases of virus infections that the world has experienced, this time around there has been precautions taken like never before, testing done as never before, documentation as never before and public debate as never before.
We must also remember that the vaccines are available as never before.
We must all, therefore, strike while the iron is hot. It will take more effort, more time, more energy and more uncertainty to produce the same result as when the iron is hot.
We must avoid alarmists and win over the anti-vaxxers.
To complete the Shakespeare quotation: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
The next question is: Should vaccination be made mandatory?
Mandatory vaccination can be an option if the number of registrations does not add up to the level necessary to achieve herd immunity. It should be the last resort. If herd immunity is not achieved, then all those who have already received their jabs would have done so in vain.
But before we make it compulsory, we must ask ourselves whether we have exhausted all avenues to get people registered as well as to allay fears that have been fanned by unverified reports of adverse effects. I still maintain that voluntary registration for vaccination is still the ideal situation as it reflects the free will of the people to stand united to defeat Covid 19.
The best way to allay the fears is to engage, educate and encourage the people to register for vaccination.
This can be done through constant and consistent messages that are well-articulated and disseminated quickly and judiciously to the public. Share information quickly and fully in a timely fashion
Win public confidence by giving them the confidence. Building trust is very vital to ensure success of immunisation drive.
This is where the traditional media can play a pivotal role. Run a regular “Dear Jane” type of column where authoritative medical personnel can address concerns that readers raise and write in on a daily basis.
This will lead to a robust and lively public discussion that will soon underlie the need for safe, quick, and comprehensive solutions, and ensure that everybody is on the same page with the same commitment where the eradication of the pandemic is concerned.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
ALLIANCE FOR SAFE COMMUNITY