Vaccination: Giving blood donors priority laudable but raise awareness first

THE Health Ministry (MOH) is looking into a proposal that those who have donated blood more than 50 times be given priority in the second phase of the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme.

According to Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, it is a good proposal and an incentive for blood donors in the country.

This is laudable, considering that the number of people who have registered for the vaccination through the MySejahtera application is still low, compared to the total number of Malaysians and non-citizens who are eligible to be vaccinated.

As of April 11, only 8.5 million (35.10%) of the targeted 26.7 million people had signed up through the MySejahtera application.

But while giving priority to blood donors in the second phase of the programme is a good idea, this must not be the only initiative that the Government is mulling.

Just like how some people cannot get vaccinated due to various health reasons, there are, too, people who cannot donate blood.

Some of these people include those who are underweight, and those who are at risk of transmitting the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or ‘mad cow disease’), known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

What the Government ought to consider at this point is perhaps to make the vaccinations compulsory for all Malaysians but at the same time, allow people to choose the vaccines that they want.

Maybe it is not too far-fetched to surmise that the low COVID-19 vaccine registration in Malaysia is partly due to the concerns surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine and its link to blood clots and deaths in vaccine recipients in the UK.

The fact that several countries around the world have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after receiving similar reports of blood clots further adds to their concern, especially considering that Malaysians will not get to choose which vaccines they want.

The Malaysian Government is currently mulling over the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) report of rare blood clots as a possible side effect of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

In this case, the Special Committee on COVID-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) will also take the EMA’s announcement into consideration to decide if Malaysia will administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to its citizens as planned.

While this is indeed reassuring, this has done nothing to allay the people’s fear and concerns.

That being said, more initiatives must be introduced to encourage people to register for the COVID-19 vaccination.

Giving certain blood donors priority in the second phase of the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme is a good start, but please don’t stop there. – April 14, 2021

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