On one fine evening in July, I took my first jab. We all know what “jab” that is. This pandemic has left us with only one important type of jab.
I was not particularly picky about the Coivd 19 vaccine brand that was available for my appointment. In fact, I was so overjoyed that I got a vaccination slot that I simply did not even check what “brand” it was. As far as I was concerned, the vaccine brand did not matter in a global health crisis. People were dying, and more than four million people around the world have met and seen the frightful end of their lives because of Covid 19.
A vaccine was a beacon of hope, as we suffered in lockdown. When I arrived at the hospital in a loose sweater for the vaccine jab, I was met with the realization that I really did not know what vaccine I was getting. I did not come to this realization until few dozens of people texted me “what vaccine are you getting?” “Are you getting Pfizer?” “You should get AZ”
To many’s dismay, I did not get Pfizer. I was getting Sinovac. However, being informed about this infamously “Chinese vaccine” (as dubbed by people) did not dampen my excitement. I have done my research and was well aware of its effectiveness. This vaccination was a reminder that we are inching closer to a post-pandemic world.
Nevertheless, murmur in the hospital went around “Why are we not getting Pfizer?” “Why the Chinese vaccine?”
Covid 19 Vaccinations In Malaysia
Malaysia is witnessing the worst of the pandemic as we reach a new record of more than 17,000 new infections. Four days ago we crossed the 1 million mark which was a number we never thought to cross. The government has approved a number of vaccines for its national rollout as well as emergency use to get immunization going. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
More than one type of vaccine is available for all of Malaysia, as approved by WHO. All of these vaccines do differ by the technology and the rate of effectiveness. The distinctive differences between the vaccines have caused some concerns and perhaps even a few stereotypes. Nevertheless, vaccine progression cannot happen without a number of choices. More than twenty million people in Malaysia need to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity. The aim is to vaccinate over 80 percent of the population to prevent the further spread of the virus.
In the current National Covid 19 Immunization Programme, we have AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac, CanSino Biologics, Janssen Ad26.CoV2.S (known as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) and even the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V. All of these vaccines included in the rollout differ by various factors such as availability and efficacy. Despite the difference, the important thing to remember is they all are powerful at preventing the further spread of the virus in the community.
Naturally, the vaccine rollout has not been easy on the community and the administration. So many factors have been hindering its progression. Even though Malaysians are fairly open to vaccination, the vaccine “brands” have caused a major shift in our attitude.
To the untrained ear, it may sound like a simple murmur. But a closer interpretation of the murmur about vaccines uncovers a bigger obstacle for the vaccine rollout in Malaysia.
As Malaysia grapples with the economic loss following lockdowns, vaccines needed to be doubled at a faster rate. The last thing we need is an entire population holding out for their preferred choices of vaccine brands.
Health ministers and doctors all over the world are encouraging people to get their vaccine doses no matter the brand name. Nevertheless, the pre-existing stereotypes about the country of origin, cultural wars, racial discrimination, and the distinctive differences of vaccines are affecting the perceived image of each vaccine.
The buzz on hospital corridors and the internet have pointed out that people prefer AstraZeneca and Pfizer over the other “inferior” vaccine brands. Many internet users in Malaysia talk about waiting for their shots of the “cooler” vaccine brands. The Pfizer and Aztrazenca shots.
As for the vaccines like Sinovac have taken a slight hit on their reputation. It is being called the Chinese Vaccine and is known to have a lower efficacy compared to Pfizer and other vaccines. Sinovac is approved for emergency use in Malaysia. More than 12 million doses have been ordered for this vaccine emergency.
People’s hesitancy and reluctance to get the Sinovac vaccines comes from both our understanding of its efficacy as well as the long-held belief that Chinese goods are fake. It also comes from the fact many of the Sinovac doses are being used in much more rural areas. Rather than viewing it as being accessible, the association with the rural side has made the vaccine look cheap in the eyes of consumers.
The Effect Of Vaccine Branding
It is not far from the truth to say vaccine branding is impeding the vaccine rollout. The effect of vaccine brands does not end there. Internet users have taken on the new job of making light-hearted jokes about different types of vaccines. Many have taken on the liberty of creating personalities for various vaccine brands. People got categorized into those who got the cool shot, the posh shot, and the Chinese shot. I got what people stereotypically called the “Chinese shot”.
The nature of stereotypical joking about the vaccine on the internet has been damaging, to say the least. The vaccine culture that is created on the internet has been promoted utter nonsense, bitterness, and classist behavior. Comments like “only hot people got Pfizer” may only seem like a joke. So far these harmless ironic jokes have caused nothing but fuel propaganda.
Disdain did not come from one comment like this. It came from hundreds who bragged about fighting for AstraZeneca and waiting for the “cool jabs” like Pfizer. Many justify their behavior using the efficacy rates of the vaccines.
“I am only waiting to get the better vaccine” is the most common justification of all in the toxic vaccine culture.
Everyone in Malaysia is given the freedom to get vaccinated. They have free will. But having a choice does not justify the elitism exhibited by some people. Nor does it justify the stereotypes that are being promoted. All of the vaccines jabs on the table are randomly distributed with no discrimination. Getting a vaccine brand that originated from China should not make you feel like you are in a lower class.
Escape The Toxicity Of “Vaccine Brands“
All of the vaccines that are available to us are lifesavers. In the hotbed of chaos, now is the last time where we should be showing elitist behavior or treating vaccines like a luxury. Vaccines are a necessity in the global pandemic. The vaccine brands hold less significance in the face of an emergency.
The vaccines that are now readily available to us are capable of preventing death and high infection rates in the community. This is the only statistic we should be looking at when concerning ourselves with vaccines. Holding out for the cooler or the richer classified vaccine will not only impede the knowledge of vaccines among the general population but also greatly hinder the vaccine progression in the country. The rate at which we gain her immunity will significantly take a hit because of the elitism and consumerism we hold over the vaccine brands.
We are looking forward to a day where we no longer have to stay home in isolation. But concerns us even more is thinking about how to survive another day of the pandemic without soaring new infections. For the sake of getting through this pandemic, we should let go of the predicament of choice. More than 8000 people have died as we patiently waited for vaccines to immunize us.
Long story short, take the jab. Your vaccine brand name does not matter. Saving lives and reducing infection takes priority over which vaccine is “hotter”.