The first batch of Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Malaysia on 21 February 2021. Soon afterwards, the Malaysian government opened the registration for Covid-19 vaccination to the public. I registered through MySejahtera on 23 February 2021. In the following months, I was waiting for a vaccination appointment. At that time, I was working as a Teaching Fellow at NUMed in Johor Bahru.
In April 2021, following reports of rare thromboembolic events caused by the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, the Malaysian government decided to offer it only on an opt-in basis. Data shows that thromboembolic events occur in around 1 out of 100,000 cases. I consider that to be a very low risk and I decided that I would take the AstraZeneca vaccine if given the opportunity.
The 1st round of opt-in registration for the AstraZeneca vaccine was open on 2 May 2021 for those living in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. I couldn't register as I was in Johor Bahru. Subsequently on 26 May 2021, the 2nd round of the opt-in registration was open to those staying in Johor, Penang and Sarawak in addition to Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. I surely wanted to take that opportunity to register.
The registration was supposed to open at 12 noon, but it got delayed until 12:15PM. Then, there were major issues with the registration website due to a large number of people wanting to register. I was able to key in my personal information, but I couldn't select the state no matter how many times I clicked on it. I refreshed the page a countless number of times and I tried using my laptop, tablet and phone, but the same issue persisted.
There were a few times where I managed to select the state, but when I proceed to selecting a vaccination centre and date, a message appeared stating that the slot was full, even though it was still available in reality. I tried registering for about an hour, without success. After that, the website announced that the opt-in registration had closed as all slots had been taken up. I felt quite upset and disappointed.
However on 29 May 2021, I received an SMS which stated that my registration for the AstraZeneca vaccine was being processed. On the next day, I got my 1st dose appointment through MySejahtera, which would be at Persada Johor Bahru International Convention Centre on 22 July. While I was glad to get the appointment, the issue was that my Teaching Fellow job would end on 30 June and I would be returning to my hometown after that.
After giving some thoughts, I decided to stay in Johor Bahru until the end of July so that I could receive the 1st dose of the vaccine. I didn't want to decline the appointment as that would lead to further delays in getting the 1st dose. However, I wouldn't be in Johor Bahru for the 2nd dose. As the interval between doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine is 9 weeks, it wouldn't be feasible for me to continue staying in Johor Bahru till then.
On 22 July 2021, I received my 1st dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Persada Johor Bahru as planned. I arrived a bit late as the main road leading to Persada Johor Bahru was closed which required me to take a detour, but that wasn't an issue. The process was quite smooth and well organised, although I had to wait for a while as there were a lot of people. As a matter of fact, I had been to Persada Johor Bahru in July 2019 to attend the NUMed Congregation.
In the morning on 23 July 2021, I started feeling quite lethargic which likely was an adverse effect of the vaccine. I didn't experience any other side effects. On that night, I was feeling a bit better and I could watch the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics online. By 24 July 2021, I had recovered from the lethargy.
I soon received my 2nd dose appointment which would be at Persada Johor Bahru on 23 September. Based on my plans at that time, I would be in Kulim in late September so it would be quite troublesome for me to travel to Johor Bahru. Therefore, I declined the 2nd dose appointment and changed my address on MySejahtera to Kulim, in hopes of getting an appointment in Kulim.
I returned to Subang Jaya on 1 August 2021. On 4 August 2021, I unexpectedly got the news that the start date of my housemanship would be brought forward from October to late August. I decided to do my housemanship at Kluang hospital. Once again, I had to change my address on MySejahtera to Kluang. However, I never got another 2nd dose appointment on MySejahtera.
During the orientation for housemanship, I was told that house officers who hadn't completed their Covid-19 vaccination could get the vaccine at Kluang hospital. However, the AstraZeneca vaccine isn't available in Kluang and the only vaccination centre in Johor with the AstraZeneca vaccine is Persada Johor Bahru. I regretted declining the 2nd dose appointment at Persada Johor Bahru, but I couldn't reinstate it. Consequently, my 2nd dose of vaccine was in limbo.
I contacted MySejahtera helpdesk and the Johor state health department to seek help regarding the issue, and they both told me that I could just walk in to Persada Johor Bahru for my 2nd dose of AstraZeneca vaccine on my original appointment date. Despite that, I was still a little worried as I didn't have an active appointment on MySejahtera.
On 23 September 2021, I went to Persada Johor Bahru to get my 2nd dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Johor Bahru is about 1 hour and 20 minutes drive from Kluang. As it turned out, the staffs at Persada Johor Bahru are very helpful and friendly. They allowed me to walk in after I explained my situation, and the process completed smoothly. I was happy to go back to Johor Bahru, as I had the opportunity to taste some of the food there which I miss so much.
With that, I have finally completed 2 doses of Covid-19 vaccination, 7 months after I first registered for it. On the following day, I once again felt quite lethargic. The lethargy lasted until 25 September 2021, requiring me to take 2 days of sick leave. Still, that was a relatively minor adverse effect which is totally worth it considering the protection against Covid-19 given by the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In late 2021, the Omicron variant of Covid-19 emerged. Its symptoms are significantly less severe, but it spreads significantly faster. 2 doses of Covid-19 vaccine is no longer sufficient to protect against it, a booster dose is needed. The Malaysian government started offering booster doses of Covid-19 vaccination to the public. Initially, the booster dose was given at 6 months after the 2nd dose, which meant that I would be getting my booster dose in March 2022.
Later, the policy was changed such that the booster dose can be given at least 3 months after the 2nd dose. Many vaccination centres in Malaysia were also allowing walk-ins for the booster dose. Despite that, I wanted to wait until March 2022 before getting my booster dose, as I had read that the efficacy of the booster dose is greatest if given at 6 months after the 2nd dose.
In late January, the number of new Covid-19 cases daily in Malaysia was increasing very rapidly due to the spread of the Omicron variant. Therefore, I considered getting my booster dose earlier. After some reading on the internet, I concluded that getting the booster dose at 3 to 6 months after the 2nd dose will not significantly decrease its effectiveness. I decided to get my booster dose as soon as possible.
At that time, Kluang hospital asked all staff members who would like to receive the booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine to fill up a registration form, and I promptly did so. On 7 February 2022, I received my booster dose at Kluang hospital. This time, I was given the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Once again, I experienced lethargy after getting the vaccine, which required me to take 1 day of sick leave.
In June 2022, Kluang hospital opened the registration for the 2nd booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine to all staff members. I promptly submitted the registration. The 2nd booster dose was to be given at least 6 months after the 1st booster dose, which meant that I would be getting it after 7 August 2022. However on 2 August 2022, I unexpectedly got called for my 2nd booster dose.
As it was just a few days short of 6 months after my 1st booster dose, the effectiveness will not be significantly affected. Therefore, I went ahead with receiving my 2nd booster dose on that day. Once again, I got the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. After the vaccination, I experienced lethargy which was worse compared to the last 2 doses, so I had to take 1 day of sick leave.
I am glad to have completed 4 doses of Covid-19 vaccination. The AstraZeneca + AstraZeneca + Pfizer + Pfizer combination provides good protection against Covid-19, including the Omicron variant. While the number of new Covid-19 cases daily in Malaysia is still high, vaccinations have greatly reduced the severity of Covid-19 infections and allowed us to return to our normal lives just like before the Covid-19 pandemic. I hope everyone will receive their booster doses of Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible.