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Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccinations for Malaysia

Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccinations for Malaysia

Choices, choices, choices

Text: Redzhanna Jazmin


Image: Visuals by Calleigh Yap for BURO

The ever-elusive COVID-19 vaccine is finally in our sights—here’s everything you need to know about the ones headed for Malaysia

The Edge Markets reports that our government is spending US$504 million (~RM2 billion to inoculate around 80 per cent of the Malaysian population. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are more than 150 potential vaccines that are currently being developed and tested globally to tackle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Around 64 of these are in human trials (correct as of 7th Jan 2021). Among them are a handful that Malaysia is either looking to acquire or has already secured.

Ahead, we’re breaking down the basics of the most promising contenders so far—find all the essentials you could possibly need to know about each vaccine below.

To start us off, here's the TL;DR version summarising the need-to-know highlights of each main vaccine (scroll past for more details):

covid 19 vaccine malaysia types

For a breakdown of the types of COVID-19 vaccines currently in development and their mechanisms of action, click here.

For those of you looking for a more in-depth summary, here are the details:

NOTE: The following vaccines are listed according to manufacturer and the country of origin—the name of each vaccine is listed under each heading.

1. Pfizer-BioNTech, USA

Name: Trade-named Comirnaty, also known as Tozinameran (INN) and BNT162b2

Efficacy: 95% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection according to preliminary Phase III results (not yet peer-reviewed)

Number of shots: 2 intramuscular shots in the upper arm, three weeks (21 days) apart for people aged 16 or older. The need for and/or timing of booster shots has not been established yet

Potential side effects: Pain at injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, fever, injection site swelling, injection site redness, nausea, malaise (general discomfort), and lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes)

Pros: Highly effective

Cons: Expensive (~GBP£15 per vaccine), difficult to store

What is it: A vaccine that contains genetic material in the form of messenger RNA. It contains a small piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus mRNA which instructs the cells in the body to make the virus’ distinctive “spike” protein without causing disease. The presence of this “spike” protein in the body then elicits an immune response against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Phase III clinical trials are still ongoing for the vaccine and will continue through to 2022, meaning that the safety, efficacy, tolerability, and duration of the immunity of the vaccine are still being fully assessed.

Will Malaysia get it? Yes

When will Malaysia get this vaccine?

  • The Malaysian government has signed a deal with Pfizer-BioNTech SE and secured 12.8 million doses
  • Pfizer will deliver enough doses to cover 6.4 million people—1 million doses in the first quarter of 2021, 1.7 million in the second, 5.8 million in the third and 4.3 million in the final three months of the year
  • The agreement depends on the vaccine being approved by both the USA’s Food and Drug Administration and Malaysia’s own regulator

For more information on the full ingredient list, side effects, and potential severe adverse events, click here.

2. AstraZeneca/Oxford University, UK/Sweden

Name: COVISHIELD, AZD1222 or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19

Efficacy: 62-90% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection according to preliminary Phase III results (not yet peer-reviewed)

Number of shots: 2 intramuscular shots in the upper arm for people aged 18 or older. The need for and/or timing of booster shots has not been established yet

Potential side effects: Injection-site pain, tenderness, warmth, redness, swelling, induration, itch, malaise, muscle ache, joint pain, fatigue, nausea, headache, and chills

Pros: Cheap (~GBP£3 per vaccine), easier to store (can be kept at refrigerator temperature for up to six months), AstraZeneca have signed a no-profit pledge, the data is being collected from a diverse range of geographic and racial groups

Cons: Comparatively low efficacy

What is it: The vaccine is a modified chimpanzee adenovirus vector. This means that the vaccine is made from a cold virus that used to infect chimpanzees, but it has been modified to prevent infection in humans and carry the genetic “blueprints'' for the COVID-19 “spike” protein. Once in the human body, the blueprints allow the body to produce the spike protein, which elicits the desired immune response. Phase III clinical trials are still ongoing for the vaccine, meaning that the safety, efficacy, tolerability, and duration of the immunity of the vaccine are still being fully assessed.

Will Malaysia get it?: Yes

When will Malaysia get the vaccine?

  • Malaysia is set to secure 6.4 million doses of this vaccine
  • The first batch is expected in the second quarter of 2021

3. ModernaTX Inc, USA

Name: mRNA-1273 or CX-024414

Efficacy: 94.1% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection according to preliminary Phase III results (not yet peer-reviewed)

Number of shots: 2 intramuscular shots in the muscle of the upper arm, one month (28 days) apart for people aged 18 or older. The need for and/or timing of booster shots has not been established yet

Potential side effects: Pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection, nausea and vomiting, and fever. More people experienced side effects after the second dose than the first

Pros: Effective

Cons: Expensive (~GBP£25 per vaccine), difficult to store

What is it: Similar to Pfizer-BioNTech's, it's a vaccine that contains genetic material in the form of messenger RNA. It contains a small piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus mRNA which instructs the cells in the body to make the virus’ distinctive “spike” protein without causing disease. The presence of this “spike” protein in the body then elicits an immune response against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Phase III clinical trials are still ongoing for the vaccine, meaning that the safety, efficacy, tolerability, and duration of the immunity of the vaccine are still being fully assessed.

Will Malaysia get it?: In negotiations

When will Malaysia get this vaccine?

For more information on the full ingredient list, side effects, and potential severe adverse events, click here.

4. Sinovac, China

Name: Trade-named CoronaVac

Efficacy: Not yet known (only data from Phase I and Phase II trials are publicly available). Estimated to be anywhere between 50-90% effective

Number of shots: Not fully established yet

Potential side effects: Not fully established yet

What is it: An inactivated vaccine that uses killed virus parts to elicit the desired immune response. Phase III clinical trials are still ongoing for the vaccine, meaning that the safety, efficacy, tolerability, and duration of the immunity of the vaccine are still being fully assessed.

Will Malaysia get it?: In final negotiations

5. CanSino Biologic, China

Name: Convidecia, also known as Ad5-nCoV

Efficacy: Not yet known

Number of shots: 1-dose in people aged 6 years old and above

Potential side effects: Not fully established yet

What is it: This vaccine is vector-based. It uses a genetically-engineered DNA sequence (called the adenovirus type 5 vector) to artificially carry the code for the SARS-CoV-2 “spike” protein into the body’s cells. This allows the body to produce the protein, which triggers the desired immune response. Phase III clinical trials are still ongoing for the vaccine, meaning that the safety, efficacy, tolerability, and duration of the immunity of the vaccine are still being fully assessed.

Will Malaysia get it?: In final negotiations

6. Gamaleya, Russia

Name: Trade-named Sputnik V, also known as Gam-COVID-Vac

Efficacy: Not yet known

Number of shots: Not fully established yet

Potential side effects: Not fully established yet

What is it: This vaccine is vector-based. It works similarly to the CanSino Biologic vaccine; it uses both the non-replicating Adenovirus types 26 and 5 in separate doses as vectors to deliver the “spike” protein and cause the desired immune response. Phase III clinical trials are still ongoing for the vaccine, meaning that the safety, efficacy, tolerability, and duration of the immunity of the vaccine are still being fully assessed.

Will Malaysia get it?: In negotiations

Who should not get vaccinated:

  • Those who have had severe or immediate allergic reactions to any ingredients in the vaccine
  • Those who have had severe or immediate allergic reactions to the first dose of the vaccine
  • Those who are pregnant or lactating
  • Those on certain medications or underlying medical conditions

IMPORTANT: This is not a substitute for medical advice. Speak to your healthcare provider for your options.

What do we still not know?

  • Whether the vaccines prevent the transmission of COVID-19 to others
  • The long-term effects of each vaccine on the body

It must be noted that these vaccines have been approved for emergency use—considering the circumstances, it is expected for the vaccines to be distributed while still in Phase III. The research groups and regulatory bodies behind the available vaccines are confident that 1) the science behind the vaccines is robust, and 2) that the likelihood of severe adverse events occurring is low, and 3) that the benefits of the vaccines outweigh the risks. That said, as with any drug on the market (including common drugs like aspirin and paracetamol), there are bound to be side effects or adverse events that occur within some individuals.

So, at this point, healthcare providers and research groups are going to be monitoring the wider population for any new developments. It is, therefore, imperative that you are diligent in reporting any adverse reactions you may experience after taking the vaccine to your doctor. From there, they will be able to treat your symptoms while your report will help to improve the vaccine going forward.

For more information on the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

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