Let’s get cracking on the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination exercise

THE adage “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” comes to life as Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin received his first of two Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine jab at the Presint 11 Health Clinic in Putrajaya after chairing today’s Cabinet meeting.

He was joined by Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah and four other staff members from the Health Ministry.

The event signals the kick-off of the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme two days ahead of schedule (initially slated for Friday, Feb 26).

By brushing aside all the publicity and hype surrounding the first batch of 312,390 vaccine doses which arrived over the weekend (Feb 21), what actually can lay Malaysians expect of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Below are two opinions shared by Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib and Bukit Gasing state assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran with FocusM:

Azrul Mohd Khalib: Despite the deployment of vaccines into the population, the COVID-19 epidemic in Malaysia is not likely to end in the immediate future.

Azrul Mohd Khalib

Though positivity rates will likely come down and the spread curbed, the ease of transmission, and the existence of new variants or strains, indicate that this coronavirus might be around for years to come.

It is likely that we will have to co-exist with SARS-CoV2 like measles, HIV, influenza and dengue. Preventing the spread of diseases from people who are asymptomatic will be almost impossible.

This will be the hard reality that we as members of society and the Government must face and prepare for. Wearing masks, practicing good hand hygiene and testing at the very least, will be part of our way of life.

The vaccines that are being rolled out are necessary. They are not only part of the exit strategy of leaving behind the need for restrictions such as the movement control order (MCO); they are also integral to the way forward for us, the Government and other countries to be confident in our ability to manage the epidemic.

Vaccines are necessary to prevent severe disease, slash hospitalisations and prevent deaths. We are already starting to see this happening in Israel where after vaccinating a third of its population, hospitalisation numbers plummeted by 30%.

If we are able to ensure a constant supply of safe and effective vaccines – whether they are mRNA, viral vector or inactivated virus – the next major challenge will be to get shots to arms.

The Government can do everything right and get the vaccines ready at the vaccination sites, but if people are not coming forward to be vaccinated in the expected numbers, reaching the objective of at least 70% of the population to receive the vaccine and achieving herd immunity within the expected time will be hard.

People must be confident in and be supportive of the national COVID-19 immunisation programme, and get themselves and their loved ones to be vaccinated.

Rajiv Rishyakaran: The National Immunisation Programme headed by the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin is a step in the right direction.

Rajiv Rishyakaran

While they have presented an impressive plan to distribute the vaccine and inoculate the population, it is still too early to gauge the success or failure of the plan. But for the sake of the people I hope it succeeds.

Senior Minister and Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali has said that this vaccine plan shows that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) Government is sympathetic.

However, this is not the case. Every government in the world should be treating this as a responsibility instead of a political tool to shine a good light on a political party.

Not only have we acquired our vaccines significantly later, they are also politicising public healthcare.

The PN Government must remember that it is the job of the government to protect and safeguard the well-being of its people.

There is no need to politicise this plan as an un-elected government as this is a global fight and nearly all countries around the world are rolling their own vaccination plan for their people.

This is a time to be focused and ensure that the health and interests of the people are protected. – Feb 24, 2021

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