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Predicting When We will be able to Safely Re-open based on Current Vaccination Rates in Malaysia

Today I received my second Covid vaccine dose, and that makes me fully vaccinated with another 2 more weeks to go before I can reap the full benefits of the my body’s immunity build up against the virus. This makes me wonder, with all the uncertainty from the continued high daily cases, and government’s new ruling of easing the restrictions of the lockdown for individuals who are fully vaccinated, can we actually predict when it will be safe again to go out? I have looked at the conditions for safe re-openings for communities and also the current data for Malaysian vaccination rates, below is my guess on when the lockdown will be safely lifted in Malaysia. Consider below 5 key points.

Before we start, do note that on some occasions when accurate statistical data cannot be obtained, I had to make some assumptions to fill the gap to make the prediction.

Point number 1: Herd Immunity
This is the indirect protection from an infection when substantial proportion of the population gains immunity through vaccination, and this lowers the spread of the virus in the whole population. The percentage of population that needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity varies with each disease, and WHO has yet to establish the exact percentage of vaccination rates needed to achieve herd immunity for Covid 19 specifically. However if we were to follow the requirements for Polio disease, the threshold needed for for herd immunity is 80%. For the purpose of this article, we would assume that 80% is the figure needed for Covid 19 (until further research updates from WHO is established).

My routine bi-weekly Covid testing, mandatory to be done before being allowed to enter back to workplace premises. This is before my nose was swabbed for this test kit.

Point number 2: Covid vaccine is not approved for children below 12 years of age

The CDC recommends the Covid vaccine for those aged 12 years of age and older. In an article by The Straits Times last month it was mentioned that the government will proceed to give the vaccine to at risk children with underlying health conditions first, and to later roll out the vaccinations to healthy adolescents in Phase 3 of the National Covid-19 Immunization Program.

I tried to find the number of population of children below 12 years old in Malaysia, unfortunately I cannot find accurate statistics for the population of children in this category. However I could find the percentage of the population of children between 0 to 14 years old as of year 2020 on this website, which states the children in this age category makes up 23.4% of our Malaysian population. For lack of more data, we will need to use this data set and make it work for now.

Percentage of children aged 0 to 14 years old as of 2020: 23.4%

I did consider if I could get access to our KPM or Malaysia’s Ministry of Education’s registrar of children who are registered to Form 1 and form 2 in 2020, hence I could minus this number from the above percentage 23.4%. As I also can’t get my hands on this data, I would have to make an assumption that the 12-13 year olds make out about 5% of the overall population. With this assumption, we are still able to meet having 80% of the population fully vaccinated, by deriving 100% – (23.5% – 5%) = 81.5% of population able to receive the vaccine.

This means that if the vaccination program continues at current pace, we will still have sufficient numbers to hit our targeted herd immunity at min 80% vaccinated.

Point number 3: Effectivity of the Covid vaccine to prevent serious Covid illness and to slow down infection rates in the community

This is important. Regardless of the vaccine type, either Pfizer Biontech, Astra Zeneca, or Sinovac that are available in Malaysia, all these 3 vaccines should fulfil below criterias:

  • Vaccinated people have lower chance of getting infected
  • Vaccinated people will have lower transmission rates of Covid if infected
  • Protection against serious illness from Covid 19- if vaccinated person gets infected, he/she has only mild symptoms and may not require hospitalization

Vaccinated people can still get and transmit the virus, but as stated above (extracted from WHO website – Vaccine Efficacy, Effectiveness and Protection), the vaccine will offer protection against serious illness or death, and slows down transmission of the virus.

This means even if infection occurs, our hospitals will not be over-crowded as vaccinated persons has good outcomes and will recover from the illness, even at home. This is a major consideration in deciding if a community can be released from lockdown.

Point number 4: Anti-vaccination community is the minority

There will be groups who do not agree on getting vaccinated, due to fear or misinformation on the Covid vaccine, or vaccines in general. There are rare side effects reported in certain outcomes after the Covid vaccination, which the medical community will need to do thorough research and investigations. However, the outcomes are not always directly linked to the vaccines in particular and this debate against vaccines has and will continue even after Covid. Unfortunately this causes more harm than good as overall research and consensus of the vaccine shows its safety and efficacy, and if more mis-information is spread obout vaccines, many more people will reject getting vaccinated, especially the older generation. However at current the number of people who are rejecting the vaccines are low and hopefully should not impact the overall population vaccination rates.

Point number 5: Vaccination rates of the population

This is the final figure to derive, and then we can estimate the expected timeline when we will be able to go back out to the community safely.

I did a check online to verify what are the stage of vaccination rates in Malaysia as of current , versus the past few months. Refer below figures.

10th August 2021:

Number of fully vaccinated people in our population: 9.05 million

Percentage of fully vaccinated population: 28.3%

Now we look back 30 days to previous month, to get an average of current daily vaccination rates.

11th July 2021:

No of fully vaccinated people in our population: 3.5816 million

Percentage of fully vaccinated population: 11.2%

Further calculations:

Vaccination growth delta in 30 days: 5.4684 mil or 17.1% increase

Average 2nd dose vaccination shots given daily in percentage of population: 0.57%

Number of percentage remaining to get to 80% population vaccinated: 80%-28.3% = 51.7%

Assuming linear growth of vaccination rates in the next few months, and no vaccine supply shortage, how long will it get to 80% of population vaccinated?

Duration to get to 80% of population fully vaccinated: 91 days or 3 months (from 10th August 2021)

This means, if all goes correctly and we do not have shortage in Covid vaccine supply, we should be able to safely reopen estimated in December 2021.

There we have it, a model / projection of when Malaysia is expected to safely resume re-openings and slowly recover from the pandemic, when we hit minimum 80% vaccinated status. Even if we have another spike in re-infection rates ( after government loosens the conditions for vaccinated persons to go out), the hospitalization rates should be lower and infected persons will have better outcomes. Also with vaccinations at this higher rate, community infections should be much lower than current.

Important note, is that even if we are allowed to resume back to business and school re-openings, we will still need to take pre-cautions and continue wearing masks, practice physical distancing and ensure general hygiene and hand washing, maybe for another half a year or so.

This is an optimistic projection and we will see if this comes true. Take care, get vaccinated and stay safe.

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