Dr Adeeba: High vaccination rate doesn’t mean safe to open up soon

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The country’s current high vaccination rate is not a sign that it can open up soon, infectious diseases expert Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said today.

Her reason for this is that hospitals, especially in the Klang Valley, are still struggling to cope with the daily increase of Covid-19 cases.

Adeeba also pointed out that Putrajaya must also take into account that a large number of undocumented individuals, migrant workers and refugees have yet to get their vaccine shots.

Latest vaccination data showed that 22.64 million vaccine shots have been administered and of this number, 14.9 million or 45.8% of the adult population have received one dose, and 7.7 million or 23.6% of the population have received both doses.

“We are desperately looking for beds and creating intensive care units (ICUs) to keep people alive, so to reopen even if our vaccination rate has reached 100% is a little premature.

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“And it’s going to be impossible to achieve a 100% vaccination rate because there are so many undocumented migrants who may not be completely vaccinated,” Adeeba said in a webinar with MIDF Amanah Investment Bank chief executive officer Dominic Silva today.

Reopening of society, she said, needs to be guided by the incidences, which means the number of new cases per 100,000 population.

“Right now, we are sitting at 200 to 300, which is at community level four by World Health Organization (WHO) standards,” Adeeba, who is also a WHO Science Council member, said.

The other general indicators, she added, was the positivity percentage and ICU utilisation.

“We need to look at all those indicators and parameters before we open up. Otherwise, it is going to boom again,” she said.

Adeeba, who is also a member of the Selangor Covid-19 task force committee, said the occupancy of ICU beds in the Klang Valley are off the scale.

“I can share harrowing stories in hospitals where doctors decide whose ventilators can be turned off to be used for a younger person desperately gasping for air,” she said.

Adeeba said she is not a proponent for lockdowns, given the fact that suicide and domestic violence cases are increasing, but stressed there are ways to protect mental health and children’s well-being by letting them go out.

“With new science and new knowledge, we know that being outdoors and away from other people is safe.

“But in terms of allowing indoor dining and opening up gyms in the Klang Valley at this time, I would not agree to it.

“Because as soon as you take your mask off, that’s when the risk of transmission is, even for people who are vaccinated,” she said.

Adeeba insisted that people have to mask up and have as little contact as possible as possible with others even when the vaccination rate is high as it takes at least two weeks after receiving both doses for the vaccine to take effect.

Malaysia recorded 20,596 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, an all-new high of daily recorded cases in the country, taking the cumulative total to 1,203,706.

Looking at Covid-19 data, Adeeba said she is worried for several states: Kedah (1,446 cases), Johor (1,300), Penang (1,022), Sabah (1,062) and Terengganu (501), that are showing a fast-rising number of infections.

“I just worry in those states where there is no system in place to boost testing, isolating, contact tracing, or ramping up the vaccination.

“I don’t want to see what is happening in the Klang Valley to be replicated in those states where they are even less able to provide hospital and ICU beds,” she added. – TMI