CHILDREN are back in schools, shops, restaurants and offices have resumed operations, and Malaysians are experiencing life as normal again.
The pandemic, with its lockdowns and inconveniences, is now a distant memory for many, except those who lost loved ones in the fight against Covid-19.
While Malaysia has made significant strides, Covid-19 remains a health concern.
The virus continues to circulate in our community and can still lead to hospitalisations and unfortunately, even death, particularly among high-risk groups.
An endemic disease is one that remains present within a community at all times, but the number of infections fluctuates within relatively predictable parameters.
However, an endemic stage does not signal the disappearance of the disease. Instead, it means that we must learn to co-exist with it safely.
In the context of Covid-19, this involves maintaining vigilance, updating vaccinations, adhering to recommended health measures and promptly seeking Covid-19 specific treatment if one tests positive.
Malaysia made significant progress in its early Covid-19 vaccination drive, with 84.3 per cent of the population now having completed their primary vaccination series, while 50 per cent of the populace have stepped forward to receive their first booster dose.
However, uptake for the second booster dose lags noticeably behind. Currently, a mere 2.5 per cent of the population have received this additional safeguard.
Covid-19 vaccination helped us tremendously in the fight against the disease as vaccines "teach" our immune system how to fight the virus and reduce the progression of disease from mild to severe and reduce hospitalisation, says Malaysian Society of Infection Control and Infectious Diseases president, Dr Shaharudeen Kamaludeen.
The World Health Organisation clearly outlines the fact that an unvaccinated person is ten times more likely to progress in disease and death where Covid-19 is concerned.
People need to get tested early and treated early, within 3-5 days of symptoms appearing, says Dr Shaharudeen.
Vaccinations, including recommended booster doses, are our primary line of defence against this virus, he adds.
"Prompt medical consultation and treatment after a positive test for Covid-19 is equally vital. Together, they are instrumental in reducing the likelihood of severe illness, hospitalisation, and tragically, death."
Immunise4Life chairman Professor Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail agrees with Dr Shaharudeen.
Maintaining an up-to-date vaccination status is not merely advisable - it's life-saving, he stresses.
Full vaccination significantly reduces the risk of severe disease outcomes.
"We urge everyone, particularly those in high-risk groups, to consider vaccinations as their personal shield against the virus, and to remember that this shield is most robust when all recommended doses, including boosters, have been administered," he says.
Being aged 60 or older, having medical conditions such as diabetes, chronic lung conditions like asthma, or even lifestyle factors such as a current or former smoking habit, depression or being overweight can increase the likelihood of severe illness and even hospitalisation from a Covid-19 infection.
MAKE A PLAN
If you or your loved ones fall into the high-risk category, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional to discuss proactive steps to take in case of a Covid-19 infection.
Having an action plan in place if a positive test result is received, or Covid-19 symptoms develop, can enable quick response and management of the situation.
The whole idea is to prevent progression of the disease. Even if you have no symptoms but have tested positive, allow a doctor to assess your risk.
No one should bear the burden of illness in silence, especially high-risk groups, adds National Cancer Society of Malaysia president, Datuk Dr Saunthari Somasundaram.
She explains that the most important thing about treatment for Covid-19 is that it should start as soon as possible after diagnosis to be effective.
"If you test positive for Covid-19, treatments are available that can reduce the likelihood of severe illness including hospitalisation and death. Please don't delay because Covid-19 specific treatment must be started within days after you first develop symptoms."
Early treatment can change your "story" where Covid-19 is concerned, she stresses.
GET UP TO DATE WITH VACCINATIONS
THE Malaysian Society of Infection Control and Infectious Diseases, National Cancer Society of Malaysia and the Malaysian Red Crescent, in collaboration with Pfizer Malaysia, have launched MyPELINDUNG, a public educational campaign aimed at building a more informed and healthier nation and mitigating the threat of Covid-19 by increasing awareness on the importance of up-to-date vaccination and prompt Covid-19 specific treatment seeking behaviour.
MyPELINDUNG aims to alleviate hesitancy around Covid-19 booster doses by disseminating scientifically accurate information and addressing common concerns.
The campaign's efforts are particularly focused on high-risk groups, where up-to-date vaccination - including booster doses - can reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalisation, and death.
For more information about the MyPELINDUNG initiative and its efforts to combat Covid-19, visit https://www.facebook.com/MyPELINDUNG
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