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NEWS: Debunking vaccination fears

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 21): The deaths of 23 elderly Norwegians have not been proved to be caused by the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 that they received, said the chief of the Vaccine Selection Technical Working Group (TWG).

In an interview with Astro Awani, Dr Kalaiarasu Periyasamy said the Norwegians, who were aged at least 75 years old, were more likely to have died from other factors.

"Maybe because of old age, they also had chronic diseases, and died due to their age. So we must not be too worried because the world's regulators are observing this and have said not to worry because of what was reported in Norway.

"We must realise that every week, 40 people in that age group die of Covid-19. So compared with 23 people ... what we know so far is that there are no direct causes of death due to the vaccine," he said in an interview with Astro Awani.

Dr Kalaiarasu, who is also the director of the Institute for Clinical Research, added that the TWG and the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) are also satisfied with the safety and efficacy levels of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

"Pfizer has tested it on over 40,000 people from the ages of 16 to 80 years old. While a lot of them are adults, it is important because those who suffer the worst symptoms are those above 65 years old, so the vaccine is focused on this group.

"The Pfizer research is published, and this is important because not all research is published. According to the Pfizer report, the side effects are acceptable because it is almost 95% able to reduce the symptoms of Covid-19. And the people are of various races and backgrounds.

"So from the data, the task force can see ... the report shows that it is good enough to be recommended to Malaysians, and the NPRA has given a one-year conditional approval for the vaccine," he said, adding that the TWG had experts from various fields such as immunology and infectious diseases.

Dr Kalaiarasu also noted that clinical trials had to follow strict rules before anything can be tested on humans.

"For example, the Pfizer vaccine has passed pre-clinical trials and phases one to three. In phase one, the safety is tested and the reports are sent to regulatory agencies before they are tried on humans. In phases two and three, the efficacy is tested.

"If we [are to] say how safe it is, I will personally take the Pfizer vaccine — that [is something] we can promise," he added.

Yesterday, Malaysia reported 4,008 Covid-19 cases, the second highest addition in a day and the second time daily new cases topped the 4,000 mark, pushing cumulative infections in the country to 169,379. The highest count of daily new cases of 4,029 was reported on Saturday.

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