'Deaths among vaccinated must be explained'

 The Health Ministry must explain to the public the deaths among the vaccinated as interpretations of its raw data are fuelling speculation that vaccines, particularly Sinovac, are not effective in preventing Covid-19 fatalities.

Epidemiologist and biostatistician Dr Malina Osman said the authorities had to do this as soon as possible to allay public fear and to prevent disruptions to Putrajaya's mission to vaccinate people 12 years old and older.

The Universiti Putra Malaysia associate professor referred to one analysis, which is going viral, claiming that breakthrough Covid-19 deaths among the vaccinated account for 922 (4.9 per cent) of the 18,802 deaths in the ministry's data available on online hosting service GitHub.

She said the unverified analysis of the ministry data claimed that Sinovac vaccine recipients make up 710 (77.0 per cent) of the breakthrough deaths.

This could be misleading, she said, as Sinovac vaccine recipients only made up 51.5 per cent of Malaysia's fully vaccinated population as of Sept 6.

It is also claimed that 206 Pfizer vaccine recipients (22.3 per cent) had died and that 43.6 per cent of the fully vaccinated population had received this vaccine.

A news portal report that echoed the analysis also claimed that there have been 10.11 vaccine breakthrough deaths for every 100,000 people vaccinated with Sinovac, 3.47 per 100,000 for Pfizer recipients and 0.91 deaths per 100,000 for AstraZeneca.

"We've come a long way, dealing with vaccine hesitancy and selective vaccine hesitancy during the early days of the Covid-19 National Immunisation Programme, when getting Pfizer was seen as winning the lottery.

"If the ministry does not come out to state whether this interpretation as right or wrong, and why while elaborating its context, parameters and the limits of the data, then this could threaten to undo all the hard work put into making the (vaccination) drive a success," she told the New Sunday Times yesterday.

Dr Malina said if the ministry did not explain the data, it could also be manipulated by anti-vaxxers.

Dr Malina Osman
Dr Malina Osman

The report also said Covid-19 deaths among the fully vaccinated between June 7 and Sept 6 mainly involved senior citizens (744; 80.6 per cent), having comorbidities (750; 81.3 per cent), or both (605; 65.6 per cent).

Only 33 deaths were recoreded among those below 60 with no comorbidities (3.6 per cent), the analysis claimed.

She said while references from the Health Ministry were valid, however, from epidemiological point of view the data dump on GitHub was superficial and inconclusive and robust clinical interpretation could not be made.

Proper analysis of the data loaded on the site by experts, she said, could take many days or even weeks.

She disagreed that the data meant Malaysia should go ahead with boosters for Sinovac recipients.

"We can just have the data as it is. No further conclusion can be made. The data is exclusively descriptive in nature, no statistical analysis being done in detail.

"The data on vaccine-related mortality has to be scrutinised further. From the clinical point of view, vaccination is not the only factor that needs to be considered. Some other possible underlying contributing or associated factors with the mortality need to be verified.

"To conclude the vaccine is attributable to the death (by looking at raw data alone) is obviously inaccurate."


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