The public needs to be vaccinated as soon as possible to reduce the transmission rate of the more dangerous COVID-19 variants, said the former Health Ministry’s National Advisor for Infectious Diseases, Datuk Dr Christopher Lee. Describing the current situation as a “race between vaccination and virus,” he said, the best way to reduce the rate of COVID-19 virus mutation in the community was through vaccination.
“Every time the COVID-19 virus spreads from one individual to another, viral mutation can occur. If it doesn’t have a chance to spread, it won’t be able to mutate. Based on this fact, if a community is infected with COVID-19, the risk of mutation will increase and over time, it will become a dominant variant like Delta now,” he said during a webinar session “Merdeka Daripada COVID-19” organized by Science Media Centre (SMC) Malaysia and The Petri Dish recently.
Mutations are changes that occur in genetic material during the process of replication to produce a virus that has different properties than the original virus. Although the COVID-19 virus has mutated several times, the recent Delta variant that is now dominant worldwide is the most dangerous thus far. The World Health Organization (WHO) also recently warned the world to immediately curb the Delta variant before it mutates again and becomes worse.
Dr Christopher added that the current COVID-19 vaccines are still able to fight the Delta variant and provide adequate protection: “In general, vaccines in Malaysia are still effective against Delta. Vaccination is still the best way to curb the spread of the virus. However, it is like a ‘race’ – if more people are infected, the risk of new variants will occur; if not many are infected, the risk of mutation will decrease. Therefore, we need to vaccinate people faster than the virus can be transmitted, “he added.
In addition to reducing the rate of COVID-19 infection after receiving the vaccine, Dr Christopher added, the latest study also showed the period of Delta variants growing in the noses of vaccinated individuals was also shorter than those who had not been vaccinated. “Although the virus can be detected in the nose of an individual whether they are vaccinated or not, the time it takes for the virus to remain in the noses of those who have been vaccinated will decrease by 50 percent faster than those who have not been vaccinated. For example, the virus might remain in the noses of those who have not been vaccinated for a week, as compared to only 3 days for those who have been vaccinated, thus reducing the rate of infection “he said.
Dr Christopher stressed that vaccination is important to protect those who have not yet been able to receive the vaccine, such as children under 12 years old. “As long as we cannot vaccinate children under 12, we need to do what we can to protect them and one of the best ways is for adults, including parents and teachers to get vaccinated immediately, to protect our children,” he added.
So far, only children and adolescents aged 12 to 17 are expected to be given the Covid-19 vaccine from September 15, through Phase 5 of the National Immunisation Program, especially for those with certain health problems. Meanwhile, clinical trials are still underway on children under the age of 12.
The webinar session is moderated by The Petri Dish Editor-in-Chief, Dr Mahaletchumy Arujanan as part of the #YakiniVaksin awareness campaign aimed at fighting myths and misconceptions about the COVID-19 vaccine. The campaign was also supported by Malaysian pharmaceutical company, Duopharma Biotech Berhad, as part of its corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Watch the FULL webinar here:
**All previous posts about COVID-19 here: https://sciencemediacentremalaysia.com/tag/covid-19/