Vaccinating the nation

This article first appeared in Forum, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on May 31, 2021 - June 06, 2021.
Vaccinating the nation
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India and China have the same population of about 1.4 billion each. But while we hear a lot about the ravages caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in India, we hear almost no such reports about China.

Can it be that the Chinese are hiding hundreds of thousands of dead bodies in China if the country is attacked by Covid-19 the way it attacked India?

Although China is not as accessible as India in terms of press freedom, it still cannot possibly hide massive disasters. Instead, we read reports that China’s economy is actually growing, doing well.

And China is exporting millions of doses of vaccines to the outside world. Indonesia, Brazil, the Arab Emirates and many others are receiving Chinese vaccines. On the other hand, Euro/American vaccines seem to be in short supply. Looks like most of the vaccines are going to the rich Western countries. Can we wait?

The world does not trust China. This includes Malaysia. We do not know much about the tests carried out on the Chinese vaccines. So we do not use them or, at least, not until lately. But for the public, the distrust is still there. Given a choice, we would prefer Western vaccines.

Can it be that the Chinese use vaccines produced by the Europeans as we do? If they do, they would need to import hundreds of millions of doses. There is no report that they are doing this. It is most likely and logical that they are using their own vaccines.

If they are, then their vaccines must be quite effective. We do not know how long the immunity lasts. Many months have passed. They, too, give booster doses. We cannot wait a year or two to find out the effectiveness of the Chinese vaccines.

Malaysia’s rate of vaccination is very low. For a long time, we only approved the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. Maybe we should also promote the Chinese vaccines. Maybe we should seriously study how the Chinese manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

Remember, China’s population is huge, more than one billion. If they vaccinate at the rate Malaysia vaccinates, it would take them decades. But they are aiming to vaccinate 80% of their population (1.1 billion) before the end of this year. They aim to achieve herd immunity this year.

Herd immunity is important. We need to achieve this target as quickly as possible. And this can only be achieved through vaccination. The countries that have reduced the number of new cases are those that have a vigorous vaccination campaign.

In the UK, even after just the first dose, the number of new cases has been much reduced. It is the same in the US.

But in Malaysia, we are seeing the number of new cases grow rapidly. Obviously, new standard operating procedures are not good enough. We should seriously increase the rate of vaccination. For this, we should forget about the source of the vaccines. Certainly, everyone should accept the Chinese vaccines.

China’s capacity to produce vaccines must be very big. If not, how can they vaccinate their huge population and apparently hope to achieve herd immunity (80%) this year?

If we procure the vaccine from China, they would be able to supply enough for our tiny population of 32 million.

Let’s have a serious vaccination campaign to reduce the number of new cases.


Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is a former prime minister of Malaysia

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