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Outbreak 2021: Comparing Covid-19 Vaccines Based on Efficacy Number

Efficacy Vaccine COVID19 Outbreak

The vaccine from Pfizer & BioNTech remains the vaccine with the highest efficacy to date and mostly ordered by Governments around the world for the first phase of vaccinations for their front liners. Infographic source: Statista

It makes a lot of sense that vaccination for a major pandemic like COVID19 should not come from only one source. That is why most countries are looking at a cocktail of different vaccines from different manufacturers. In Malaysia, we are also looking at the different types of vaccines; spread over 3 main phases lasting till April 2022.

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Efficacy Malaysia COVID19 Vaccine

Based on a survey in December 2020, only 67% of Malaysians will be willing to take the COVID19 vaccine. This is a very low number but given the awareness drive and information shared in social media, hopefully, the percentage has gone up considerably. Infographic source: The Star

Favouring Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine

One of the key criteria that most of us been looking into deciding which vaccines we want to take is the efficacy number. Truthfully, we all are keen to take a vaccine that has the highest efficacy number. We don’t trust vaccines that have low efficacy number.

Of course, the other factor is the source of the vaccine – we want the vaccines from the West whilst reject the ones from China where COVID19 was first detected. Before that was the halal & non-halal nonsense.

It came to a point where Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin volunteered to choose the other vaccine:-

The Malaysian minister in charge of Covid-19 inoculations Khairy Jamaluddin said he will refrain from being inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and will get a jab instead from one of the other vaccine providers to combat “selective vaccine hesitancy”.

Mr Khairy, the Coordinating Minister for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, said he will be the first person to take the next vaccine that the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) has approved.

“I have been observing the views of the people. The prime minister, the health director-general and now many ministers and front-liners have taken Pfizer vaccine.

“So, the people have more confidence in Pfizer vaccine because the prime minister had taken the vaccine without having any side effects,” said Mr Khairy, who is also the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister.

“The people are asking why are they all taking Pfizer, the good stuff, while the others are meant for the ordinary people.

“So, I have decided that I will take whatever vaccine that crosses the line, be it Sinovac, AstraZeneca or Sputnik V,” he told a news conference on Saturday (Feb 27), as reported by Malaysiakini news site.


Personally, I had the same doubt and hope that I will get the Pfizer vaccine when the time comes for me to get the vaccination. Then I watched an interesting video that explains the efficacy number between the various vaccines. A vaccine with a lower vaccine does not mean it is a bad vaccine.

Efficacy Vaccine Asia COVID19

The good news when it comes to large vaccination is that most countries have made their plans to deploy the vaccination. Malaysia will see deployment in 3 phases with Phase 1 is in progress with Phase 2 scheduled to start in April 2021. Infographic source: Statista

Why Cannot Compare Covid-19 Vaccines?

Till the point that a friend of mine shared the link for the below video, I had the same misconception that only vaccines with the highest efficacy were the best vaccine. But then after watching this video, it makes sense that the priority in choosing a vaccine is not the efficacy but the one that will keep you alive.

YouTube player

Decoding the Efficacy Number

If the key point of a vaccine is to keep us alive despite infection and all pharmaceutical companies are aware of this, then why some of the vaccines have low efficacy number? Aren’t they aware that having lower efficacy will give a negative impression on the effectiveness of their vaccines?

Perhaps that’s because in its clinical trial, the J&J vaccine had an efficacy number — the percentage of cases prevented entirely — of 66 percent. Compared against the 95 percent efficacy rate for the Pfizer vaccine and the 94.1 rate for Moderna’s, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine simply doesn’t look as good.

But in another sense, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial results were incredibly encouraging. The same trial showed that J&J’s vaccine makes Covid-19 cases much milder, meaning you might still get sick but you are much less likely to be hospitalized or die. Indeed, on that front, the J&J vaccine performs just as well as Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, a fact that seems to have been undersold in news coverage about it.

No one who got two doses in clinical trials for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines has been hospitalized or died, and the same holds true for the new vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Oxford/AstraZeneca, and Novavax (which haven’t yet been approved in the US). Each of the vaccines has demonstrated very high protection against severe Covid-19 in trials.

So why aren’t we talking about that?


Presently Malaysia is looking at the US and China for the vaccines but we seriously need to talk to India (a country that we royally pissed off in the past) as well. Infographic source: Statista

Number of Vaccines In Trials

The good news is that there are a large number of vaccines being developed in the war against the COVID19 pandemic and the large options mean easy access and availability in large numbers to vaccinate everyone globally.

Vaccines typically require years of research and testing before reaching the clinic, but in 2020, scientists embarked on a race to produce safe and effective coronavirus vaccines in record time.

Researchers are currently testing 80 vaccines in clinical trials on humans, and 23 have reached the final stages of testing. At least 77 preclinical vaccines are under active investigation in animals.


Last Say

After a terrible loss of life in 2020 due to the COVID19 pandemic, things are looking up in 2021 with the number of infections under control and the number of people being vaccinated on the rise.

Further, there are a few options when it comes to the brand of vaccines that one can take, one can hope that we will see the end of the pandemic by early 2022.

As such, the key thing that one needs to focus on is to ensure one gets the vaccine that will keep you alive despite getting the COVID19 virus.

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