KOTA KINABALU: Dr Zainab Kassim and Leorita Joseph Henry are probably the first Sabahans and Malaysians to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in the UK — and the good news is, they are not showing any reactions.
Both Dr Zainab and Leo are working at King’s College Hospital in London.
UK is the first country to approve the Pfizer vaccine which was rolled out on 7th December.
There were 50 vaccine hubs selected in the UK to begin rolling and King’s College Hospital is one of the hubs.
“Covid-19 vaccine is possibly one of the most studied subjects nowadays. Important to take note that it does not 100% prevent infection, like other vaccines rather reduce the risks of getting severe infections. A new vaccine with unknown long-term effect obviously will cause a lot of anxiety and we cannot blame the public for being hesitant,” said Dr Zainab when contacted by The Borneo Post today.
Dr Zainab, who hails from Kampung Pimping Membakut, is one of Neonatal Specialists at King’s College Hospital. She has been working there since 2004.
The 51-year-old is currently Neonatal Lead for Postnatal Ward and Transitional Care at the hospital, where there were quite a good number of babies under her care born of Covid-19 positive mothers.
“During the pandemic my father was with me in London. My mother left us in March 2019, so my siblings take turn looking after him. This time my dad was in London again with the plans to tour Europe as well as to spend spring here as my dad loves flowers. Unfortunately shortly after arrival Covid was taking over the world.
“Lockdown soon was imposed in the UK and my dad who is a 75-year-old diabetic with hypertension is extremely vulnerable. On the other hand both my husband and me have to continue working and risk being exposed to the virus.
“To ensure enough staff, annual leaves were frozen or shorten if really needed. So everyday coming back from work we were so anxious of bringing back the virus. We were obsessed with hand washing and cleaning ourselves properly before meeting him. He was also bored staying home 24/7, lucky we have a good size garden so he can do some gardening and weather was good,” she said, when asked about her feelings about the pandemic.
Dr Zainab’s father, Kassim Mataha was a farmer and also an Imam at Masjid Membakut.
“Eventually the earliest opportunity arrived when flight was made available that he could fly home accompanied by my son who just completed his degree. We are relieved that they were Covid negative when tested at KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) and was quarantined in Sabah. My dad otherwise remained well when he was with us from February to May.
“So there was a lot of anxiety mainly because of fear of infecting my dad. At the same time lots of news on doctors of ethnic minority in the UK died of Covid-19. Lucky my youngest is 14 and not so young. School was closed and she stayed home with my dad so they kind of look after each other.
“So you could imagine when the vaccine eventually arrived. I have no hesitation to go for it. It came as a shock when our senior manager informed us on the day that vaccines were available for us on the third day,” she added.
Dr Zainab will have the second dose in 21 days.
Sharing her experience during the vaccine day, she felt lucky for having flu jab a month prior, as the hospital requires them to take flu jab every year.
“Firstly, we got registered and appointment made for the second dose 21 days apart. Then we were sent to sit with pharmacy to go through knowledge on the vaccine, potential side effects and consent, then vaccine given.
“And we were told to stay there 15 to 20 minutes in case any allergic reaction as reported the day before severe allergic reaction encountered post Covid-19 vaccine.
“So I was kind of scared but Alhamdulillah Syukur it was ok. The jab itself was less painful than the annual flu jab. No immediate severe reactions. The next day my arm felt quite sore and I had a bit of low grade fever. That was all. So far all good no major problems and I continued to work as usual.
“Some of the staff are also reluctant and not so keen. They even joked – if you are still alive then I will consider taking it,” she said.
Her husband, who has hypersensitivity but never had severe reaction to flu jabs, took an extra week to be convinced to get the jab.
Meanwhile, Leorita who is a Clinical Librarian at the King’s College Hospital, also received her first dose on Thursday, 10 Dec around 1.30pm.
She has lived in England for the past 28 years.
“I am originally from Kepayan, a second child out of five siblings.
“I received the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine at 1.30pm on Thursday 10 December 2020, which probably made me one of the first Sabahans/Malaysians to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, alongside my colleague and friend Dr Zainab.
“Both Dr Zainab and I work for King’s College London Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. I was offered the vaccine by King’s as I am one of their hundreds of clinically vulnerable staff and have been shielding from March to August 2020.
“My role is to provide training to all healthcare practitioners (doctors, medical students, nurses, midwives and allied health practitioners) in finding high-quality evidence-based health and medical information to help support patient care, clinical decision making and research. I also conduct literature search for doctors and consultants to support their work in looking after patients, quality improvement work and writing publications for medical journals,” she said.
As a Clinical Support Librarian working in a hospital, Leo said her responsibility is to provide information that is backed up by evidences and facts, to all staff at King’s as well as to members of the public.
Misinformation about Covid-19 and the vaccine can put people at risk,” she said.
“People are sceptical about the vaccine for a number of reasons. The vaccine is there to minimise the risks of severe disease from the infection – not to prevent infection.
“Like any other vaccines or drugs, it is not without its risks but the adverse reaction to this vaccine is very small compared to the protection it gives,” she said.
This can be explained further by an article published in BBC News shared by Leo – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55216047
“I was diagnosed with Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) back in 2003 and had gone through a chemotherapy treatment because of it. This treatment is usually given to cancer patients but it is also used to treat severe cases of lupus.
“Chemotheraphy treatment is known to have severe side effects on the patients and I was no different. It made me more ill before I could get better. I have been on immunosuppressant since then, which makes me highly susceptible to any illnesses and infections.
“When the Covid-19 pandemic began I have been asked to go into shielding, i.e. no contact with anyone at all due to my weak immune system and the risk of catching the coronavirus infection is higher than normal healthy people. It has been a very difficult six months for me not being able to offer face-to-face support to my colleagues at the hospital.
“Hopefully, by being vaccinated I can be around my friends and co-workers without having to worry about catching the virus or giving it to someone else. Having the vaccine doesn’t just protect us but it protects our family, friends and colleagues.
“Hopefully we can have some normalities back in our lives and do the things we used to do prior to Covid-19. For me it would be dancing and travelling again,” she concluded.
On Nov 24, the Malaysian government through the Health Ministry, signed a preliminary purchasing agreement with pharmaceutical company Pfizer to obtain 12.8 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to meet the immunisation needs of 20% or 6.4 million Malaysians.
Two days before that, an agreement with the COVAX facility was also signed to meet the immunisation needs of another 10 per cent of Malaysians.
The Malaysian government has plans to increase purchase of the Covid-19 vaccine to cover the immunisation needs of about 60-70 per cent of Malaysians compared to 30 per cent currently.
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said suppliers have also been asked to expedite delivery of the vaccine, which is scheduled to arrive in March next year.