For one and a half years (or so), everyone’s been constantly looking for a way out of the pandemic, and now, we might actually seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccination rates are going up, and it’s a real possibility that 100% of adults in Malaysia will be fully vaccinated by October. You’ve probably gotten your first jab or even your second, and you’re finally starting to feel a teensy bit safer… until you see this video in your social media feed and start questioning everything.
Have you been vaccinated properly? Is getting injected with a dose air dangerous? We had the same doubts and then some. Needless to say, since we’re not very knowledgeable when it comes to medical stuff, we contacted someone who is. Dr. T, a doctor who’s currently working in a government hospital in the Klang Valley, was kind enough to pick up the phone when we called him. Here’s what we learnt from a brief chat with the man.
It’s most likely human error
While it is possible that something funky might be happening behinds the scenes at vaccination centers, Dr. T believes that the whole blank shot song and dance has more mundane causes:
Humans do make mistakes and that includes healthcare workers. When someone has to vaccinate hundreds of people a day, mistakes can happen.
People are more prone to making mistakes when they’re overworked to the point of exhaustion. In trying to combat the issue, the Deputy Health Minister, Dr. Noor Azmi Ghazali has urged healthcare workers to let their higher-ups know whenever they need to take a break. Not sure how that’s gonna go seeing that there’s a chronic shortage of staff in many of these centers.
Theory number two for the empty syringe incidents: people tend to choke under pressure. Everybody has something called a “working memory”, a type of memory that plays a role in helping us complete tasks every day. When we’re put in stressful situations, the pressure messes with our working memory, causing us to flub even the most routine things we do. It’s why students go blank in exam halls, why trained medical professionals very occasionally mess up vaccine injections and why world-class athletes choke in clutch moments.
With the more plausible theories out of the way, this is where we step into tin foil hat territory – there are people out there who believe that vaccines are being whisked away from vaccination centers to be sold on the black market. This sounds nuttier than a fruitcake, but it’s already happened in Venezuela and the United States, of all places. Dr. T doesn’t put stock in the black market idea, though:
Fraudulent issues? Trying to sell the vaccines to a third party? I really don’t believe that that’s the case, though.
Plus, according to Datuk Seri Dr. Adham Baba, our Health Minister, stringent SOPs were in place and random medical audits were conducted at vaccination centers, so it appears the theory’s bunk. That leads us to the next question…
Should you be worried about getting injected with an empty syringe?
‘Can I die from having a botched vaccination?’ is a totally valid reaction to watching one of these videos, because you can die if you have air pumped into your blood vessels. Whenever one or more air bubbles enter your artery or vein and block it, you’d have what’s known as an air embolism. This, in turn, can cause heart attacks, a strokes or respiratory failures. Yeesh.
A few of us at Cilisos were kinda paranoid about it, but calmed down pretty quick when Dr. T explained that vaccine injections go into your muscles instead of your blood vessels:
If you get 0.3 – 0.5ml of air injected into the muscle tissue of your arm, it probably wouldn’t cause any major medical harm…
…but incidents like these will definitely affect the progression of achieving herd immunity.
Herd immunity happens when a large number of a community becomes immune to a disease. This helps protect the entire community – not just individuals who are actually immune. Healthcare workers and organizations nationwide have been working towards achieving herd immunity, but these empty syringe incidents can impede progress because people might falsely believe that they’ve been vaccinated when they haven’t.
Here’s some good news to balance out the bad: there’s only a very, very, very slim chance of this actually happening to you. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning (1 in 500K chance) than being injected with an empty syringe or having your vaccine poorly done (1 in 15 million chance), that is, if the Ministry of Health did their math correctly. To top it all off, the authorities aren’t sitting on their bums doing nothing.
The gomen is looking into the issue very seriously
Bukit Aman’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has launched investigations into 13 empty syringe reports as of 24 July and the COVID-19 Immunisation Task Force are also looking into the issue on their end. What you can do if you (or someone you know) had your shot improperly administered AND you (ideally) have video evidence is to lodge a report with the police so re-vaccinations can be done.
To wrap this one up, Dr. T has some parting words:
Since more and more viral videos are circulating, people have no choice but to be more alert. As a health care worker, I understand your worries, therefore I’m totally fine with you watching and observing me closely during the vaccination process. But because of these issues, healthcare workers may spend slightly more time on each vaccinee and the process of vaccination may take longer.
Don’t let this whole empty syringe fiasco stop you from getting vaccinated or destroy the trust you have in our frontliners. They’re doing all they can to lift us out of the prison that is COVID-19, and who knows, we’ll be able to have some semblance normalcy in our daily lives again.