WHILE there is grave concern on the rising numbers of Covid-19-positive patients and the unmanageable load facing government hospitals, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel with some promising vaccines coming to our shores.Having said that, there are still doubts within pockets of the community if these vaccines will eventually be of any help in the long run.Please do not see this as doubt coming from an anti-vaxxer or a pro-vaccine advocate, but rather a man on the street who harbours that silent thought of apprehension on the entire vaccine programme.We are wading into unprecedented and untested waters as these vaccines are being recommended for practically the entire population, locally and globally.Now, we are talking about billions to be vaccinated over a very short period, namely within the next few years and the current data released by pharmaceutical companies manufacturing these vaccines do not exhibit the robustness on the aspects of safety in such a gargantuan- scaled vaccination drive.Mass vaccination reaching every nook and corner of the world could result in far more detrimental and adverse consequences in the long haul if there are to be any unforeseen side-effects to crop up.Please be reminded that some of these vaccines, though would have been in the research pipeline on their delivery systems using novel mRNA technology for past years, the clinical use adaptation for Covid-19 virus was done in record breaking time.As we are well aware of, developing a workable, reliable, efficacious and above all acceptable vaccine safety profile for any disease could take up to a decade or even more. But here we have the pharmaceutical big boys who have been able to convince the world’s governments and health authorities to get their citizens inoculated with products that have questionable statistics.Take note that these hurried clinical trials in humans (Phases 1 to 3) were conducted using protocols that outline the various inclusion and exclusion criteria of patients subjected to the vaccines, while close follow-up was done by trial centres providing the necessary support systems to ensure that outcomes were measured for data analysis.Above that, the number of subjects enrolled in the trials were limited due to various factors such as geographical reach, limited resources of manpower, financial constraints and regulatory requirements.It is dangerous and unwise to extrapolate outcomes of clinical trial findings done with thousands of subjects onto hundreds of millions or even a billion of the world population. The use of these vaccines is being expedited while the pharmaceutical companies could well be still lingering on the learning curve.They have conveniently transferred the liability to the end user in the event there is an adverse reaction and even has thus far worked hard in “justifying” some reported adverse effects in those who have administered the currently available vaccines.But is this a fair and ethical practice to the end user or the general population who inadvertently become guinea pigs for these vaccines?Yes, there is an urgent need to address the Covid-19 pandemic globally and there are no two-ways about it. But parallel to that urgency, aren’t we taking hasty uncalculated risks with the lives of the masses?Compounding that uncertainty is the fact that we do not really know if these vaccines will still be effective in the coming year or years after inoculation.Billions would have been earned by these pharmaceutical giants by then, enriching their shareholders on the way but in the end, the loser will be the man on the street.Casting a wide but loosely secured net on the back of limited clinical studies on the global population should not be encouraged under any circumstances by any entity, even governments.Health experts must keep in mind that it is eventually the poor and middle-class citizens who make up the majority of the world’s population who will suffer the most if there are repercussions on the vaccines.Last but not least is the question of who should and should not be vaccinated? Does one need to be vaccinated if he or she has been exposed to the virus before? One may not even realise if he has been exposed and has natural immunity, especially those who had no symptoms! Though some experts say there is no harm in vaccinating those who have already been exposed to the virus, but is not that a wasting precious doses?Will we need two, or three or even four doses in time? There are too many questions but too few forthcoming answers. – January 17, 2021.* Narinder Pal Singh reads The Malaysian Insight. * This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.
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