James Kon

Since the shipment of 50,400 doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Brunei Darussalam from Spain on June 20, members of the public have been receiving the vaccine under the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme.

The first shipment of Moderna that arrived in the country was part of the 200,000 doses procured by the Ministry of Health (MoH).

In light of the mass vaccination with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the MoH issued information on Moderna to ease any public concerns and raise the understanding on the vaccine.

According to the MoH, the Moderna vaccine is an mRNA vaccine – it carries instructions to make a part of the virus known as the ‘spike protein’.

This stimulates the production of a good immune response that protects the vaccinated person because the spike protein is an important part of the virus. Spike proteins are, however, incapable of causing COVID-19 infections. The mRNA only persists for two days before it is naturally broken down by the body. However, by then it is still able to stimulate the immune system and teach it to fight off future infections.

The mRNA vaccine is not a form of genetic modification. The mRNA vaccine is a form that cannot be converted back to DNA. There is no possibility that the COVID-19 mRNA will interfere with or modify human DNA. The mRNA is completely broken down within 48 hours of introduction into the human body.

The Brunei Darussalam Medicines Control Authority (BDMCA) has verified the safety and efficacy of the Moderna vaccine following a stringent scientific assessment process by the National COVID-19 Vaccines Technical Committee. Authorisation for use in Brunei Darussalam has been granted under the Special Approval during Public Health Emergency or Pandemic situation.

In addition to Brunei Darussalam, the Moderna vaccine has also received approval for use by at least 53 other countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore, as well as the European Union.

The Ministry also talked about the effectiveness of the Moderna vaccine, whereby the vaccine was studied in an international randomised control Phase 3 trial. Based on the findings of this trial, the efficacy of the Moderna vaccine in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 disease, after two doses, is 94 per cent.

In terms of safety, as of June 2021, more than 200 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered worldwide where in general, serious adverse events are rare.

Most people only get mild side effects that last a few days. However, in a small number (fewer than five in a million people), the vaccine may cause a serious, but treatable, allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. This is why, following vaccination, you may be monitored for signs of anaphylaxis for up to 15 to 30 minutes by staff at the vaccination sites.

Signs of anaphylaxis include the development of hives, facial, lip or throat swelling accompanied by difficulty in breathing.

Additionally, some other countries have reported rare cases of inflammation of the heart called myocarditis and pericarditis that occur after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination. A cause has not yet been established. These reports are rare and tend to occur in younger male adults presenting with chest pain and shortness of breath, typically within several days after mRNA vaccination.

Most patients who received care responded well to treatment and rest. Patients can usually return to their normal daily activities after the symptoms have improved.

The Moderna vaccine is not currently recommended for children under the age of 18. If you have cancer, consult your oncologist if you can qualify for the vaccine.

Individuals with a history of anaphylaxis to previous vaccines should also not receive the
Moderna vaccine.

If you are unsure whether or not the Moderna vaccine is suitable for you, consult a doctor to consider other suitable alternatives.

There are no safety concerns with receiving the vaccine for people with long-term chronic conditions. In fact, those with chronic illnesses are at higher risk from COVID-19. Therefore, they are strongly recommended to receive the vaccine for personal protection as well as protecting their loved ones.

Women, who are pregnant or breastfeeding, can be administered with Moderna vaccine after early safety signals from ongoing studies on pregnancy and breastfeeding has shown no adverse consequences of the Moderna vaccine.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is the preferred vaccine for eligible pregnant women of any age, because of a more extensive experience of their use in pregnancy.

Women at higher risk of COVID-19 such as healthcare workers and frontliners and those with chronic diseases, or those planning to travel abroad are encouraged to receive the Moderna vaccine.

The Moderna vaccine is given as an injection into the muscle of the upper arm and consists of two doses given at four to eight week intervals.

The public needs to get both doses to have the full vaccine protection, and for the protection to last as long as possible. Meanwhile, if unwell, the public is urged to reschedule their vaccination via the BruHealth app.

Highlighting some of the common side effects, the MoH shared, “The vaccine has been assessed to be safe for use. However, you may experience common side effects, similar to other vaccines. These include pain at the injection site, mild fever, muscle or joint pains.

“Most side effects are mild and usually get better within a few days. If there are the mentioned side effects, you may take one to two tablets of paracetamol every six hours as needed.”

If the symptoms worsen, or if the fever persists for more than two days, the public are advised to see a doctor.

The public should be on the lookout for symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart. Seek medical care immediately if there are any of these symptoms within a week after COVID-19 vaccination.

The public is also urged to report their symptoms on the BruHealth App, fill in the ‘Symptoms After COVID-19 Vaccination Reporting Form’ or contact the HealthAdvice Line 148 if you have further queries.

Immediately after vaccination, individuals will be monitored by staff at the vaccination site for signs and symptoms of allergies or anaphylaxis, and be treated appropriately.

If one has already left the vaccination site and experienced a possible allergic reaction, such as eye or lip swelling, hives, generalised skin rashes, breathlessness, seek immediate
medical attention.

Brunei Darussalam aims to vaccinate 70 per cent of its population by the end of 2021 through the three phases of national COVID-19 vaccination programme which is currently underway, to achieve herd immunity.

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