COVID-19 vaccines: Trust Gov’t standards, getting inoculated a priority now!

ALLOWING the public to choose the type of COVID-19 vaccine they wish to have would cause a massive logistical problem for the Government due to, among others, storage issues.

“The Government will also be scheduling the public (under different phases). Allowing people choice of vaccines at this juncture would cause a lot of disruption,” the Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar told FocusM.

Two days ago, Consumer Association of Subang & Shah Alam (Cassa) urged the Government to allow the public to choose the type of COVID-19 vaccines they would like to have, instead of the authorities making the decision for them.

“It’s simply ridiculous to state that consumers need not be concerned about the brands of COVID-19 vaccines used under the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme as each vaccine has been approved by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA).

Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar

“If that is the case, will NPRA be legally responsible should there be any deaths or dangerous side-effects later on?” its president Datuk Jacob George was reported asking FocusM.

However, Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) CEO Paul Selvaraj shot down George’s suggestion, saying the public should just take up any COVID-19 vaccines approved by the Government.

“Let’s be practical here. We’re talking about a national vaccine rollout. We should just take what is given,” he told FocusM.

Echoing Selvaraj’s sentiments, Zainal said the public should not worry about the vaccines’ efficacy as they were approved by the regulators, under stringent conditions.

“They are all certified and approved. In my view, the type of vaccine is not the issue. What matters most is everyone should get inoculated.

“In an ideal situation, I agree that people should get to choose what they want but due to the reasons mentioned, our priority now is get the mass vaccination programme done, unless there are specific reasons why certain vaccines cannot be administered to certain people,” he opined.

Work with private healthcare players

Meanwhile, Zainal responded positively to ideas that the private healthcare players should be roped in for the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme to hasten the inoculation process.

In terms of procurement and pricing, the veteran health expert said the private healthcare players could get the COVID-19 vaccine via Government procurement channels.

“While they may charge a small service fee, the vaccines itself must be administered for free to the public. This suggestion is nothing new as we had done such a thing before,” Zainal stated.

On March 6, online news portal Free Malaysia Today reported Centre for a Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) urging the Government work with the private healthcare players on the vaccination programme.

They said that the 9,000 private clinics and hospitals would also alleviate burden to the already stretched public healthcare services.

“The Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia has openly appealed to the Government to include them in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.

“They have publicly announced that they are willing to procure vaccines from different sources once approved by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA),” Cenbet co-president Gan Ping Sieu was reported saying.

On the service charge, Zainal said: “The Government can control it. Perhaps, we can cap it at RM20.” – March 9, 2021.

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