By Lim Kit Siang
I URGE the Government to fully embrace the concept of vaccine equity, where priority is given to healthcare workers to ensure the success of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in Malaysia.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a call in January on all countries to work together in solidarity – and in each of their best interests – to ensure that within the first 100 days of the year, vaccination of healthcare workers and senior citizens were underway in all countries.
This call to action is at the heart of WHO’s campaign for #VaccineEquity.
Malaysia is about the 100th country to carry out a national vaccination rollout, which has seen more than 236 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered in 103 countries, with the latest daily rate at roughly 6.67 million doses a day.
The WHO has expressed hope that by April 7 (World Health Day), COVID-19 vaccines are being administered in every country, as a symbol of hope for overcoming both the pandemic and the inequalities that lie at the root of so many global health challenges.
The WHO has called for an acceleration of vaccine equity for all healthcare workers now, as health and care workers have been at the forefront of the pandemic response: often under-protected and over-exposed.
WHO said: “Women make up the vast majority of health and care workers and it is thanks to their professionalism, bravery and dedication, often in the toughest of circumstances, that the global mortality rate from the virus is not higher. It is also thanks to their compassion and humanity that those we have lost have been treated with dignity in their final moments.
Women’s role in stemming the pandemic
“Due to unprecedented scientific efforts, vaccines are now being distributed in more than 70 countries across the world, with healthcare workers in those places rightly among the first groups to receive them. In the majority of low- and middle-income countries, vaccination has not even started which is a catastrophe as hospitals fill up.
“We must act swiftly to correct this injustice. Multiple variants are showing increased transmissibility and even resistance to the health tools needed to tackle this virus. The best way to end this pandemic, stop future variants and save lives is to limit the spread of the virus by vaccinating quickly and equitably, starting with health workers.”
In declaring 2021 as the Year of the Health and Care Workers, WHO stressed that “distributing COVID-19 vaccines quickly and equitably is essential to end the pandemic, restart our economies and begin to tackle the other great challenges of our time, like food insecurity, inequality and the climate crisis”.
In this connection, it is important that the Government should heed complaints of vaccine inequity as expressed by Malaysian frontliners, most notably by Dr Rafidah Abdullah on Twitter about the problem of “Dua Darjat 2.0”, and her call to the health authorities to “menjaga kebajikan petugas-petugas kesihatan-hospital, swasta & komuniti; bukan yang berdarjat”. – Feb 28, 2021.
Lim Kit Siang is the MP for Iskandar Puteri.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.