Forget deadlines, instill public confidence on vaccine efficacy first

PRIME Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has announced that the Government is mulling a deadline –read June – for Malaysians to register for the COVID-19 vaccine in order to achieve the 80% inoculation target.

According to him, registration through the MySejahtera app is only about six million so far, relatively low compared to the country’s current population of over 20 million people, excluding foreigners who are eligible for the immunisation programme.

“I may set a deadline. We cannot open the registration forever. Maybe we can set the deadline to June, and those who did not register by the end of the month will not get the vaccination,” he explained, adding that it would be helpful to ensure the efficiency of the rest of the vaccination programme.

While I share the Prime Minister’s opinion that there needs to be efficiency when it comes to the vaccination programme, to ensure that herd immunity is achieved, I do not agree that there needs to be a cut-off time for registration.

As it is, the vaccine registration rate is still so low, and if anything, this indicates that people are still not convinced about why they ought to get inoculated against the coronavirus.

While some people believe that the vaccines are safe because scientists, doctors, and those who have been vaccinated say they are, there are also people who would prefer to wait and see, as they are concerned about the possible side effects of taking the vaccine.

Of course, there are also people who remain undecided due to the lack of trustworthy information and news about the vaccine that is available to them.

It is the people who prefer to “wait and see” that needs the most convincing, and this goes without saying that the Government still has a huge task ahead to convince them.

The lack of access to the internet and smartphones also poses a problem. True, the Government has recently announced that face-to-face registration for the COVID-19 vaccination has been launched in rural areas, especially in places with limited internet access and communities without digital gadgets.

But still, that is a lot of ground to cover, as we are talking about the rural parts of both Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak. So, does the Government have enough manpower to reach out to everybody before the proposed deadline?

Plus, the Government must also clarify: If a deadline is set, what would happen to those who did not manage to register for the vaccines? Would they still be eligible for the next round of vaccines, or would this be a missed opportunity?

More importantly, would they face a fine, or be denied access to certain places and facilities?

The best way to deal with the issue is to instill confidence in the people that the vaccines are safe and effective. Deadlines can come later. – March 4, 2021


Photo Credit: Syafiq Ambak, MalaysiaGazette

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE