KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11: The safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines have always been a hot debate amongst Malaysians especially prior to receiving the first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines by end of this month.

Following this, Malaysian Medical Association Public Health Society (MMA PHS) has come out with ‘Infovax’, a community education and awareness series on COVID-19 vaccines to clear the doubts.

According to National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) general manager cum medical director Dr M. Murallitharan, there is a lot of hesitation and concern among one’s own group, family members, friends and even health professionals on whether the vaccines are safe and effective.

“So these two (safety and effectiveness) are the two big worries among the people. That’s the thing, as a lot of us are hinging on this vaccine, (it is) actually effective to make the pandemic recede, and slowly you can go on to normal life.

“If there is a lot of people not going to be taking the vaccine, we will actually be having huge challenges in terms of ending the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why we came out with this Infovax initiative,” he said on Bernama TV’s Mid Day Update today.

Dr Murallitharan said Infovax is an ongoing project currently running on one news portal where it would soon be expanding in terms of materials to be shared to the public in different languages as well as starting an online Facebook session.

He further explained that there would always be a risk-benefit involving any kind of drugs, medications, as well as vaccines.

For example, he said a lot of people use medicine such as paracetamol on daily basis but it would cause allergies for some people and some may even have a severe allergy to that particular medicine.

“Similarly with every other drugs and vaccines, not only in this group of vaccine, there are going to be a group of people who are allergic to this vaccine and for these people, we already have a documented history of allergy and we are going to be very careful when giving them the vaccine,” he added.

On Feb 4, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme would start at the end of this month, with the government targeting 80 per cent of the country’s population or 26.5 million individuals receiving the vaccine, which will be given free, in three phases.

The first phase is from February to April for a total of 500,000 frontliners who are directly involved in the fight against COVID-19, while the second phase is from April to August for the high-risk groups, comprising senior citizens aged 60 and above and the vulnerable groups with morbidity problems such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, and also those with disabilities.

The third phase, which is from May this year to February next year, is for adults aged 18 and above.- Bernama