The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) welcomes the government’s plan to complete vaccination of 27 million people or 80 per cent of the population by March 2022 or the quickest by this December as stated by the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin in an interview with CodeBlue published on January 27.
It said it will kick-start the national Covid-19 vaccination programme by immunising 75,000 people a day across 600 vaccination sites nationwide from March. The 600 identified vaccination sites comprise Ministry of Health (MOH) hospitals and public health clinics (Klinik Kesihatan), university hospitals, Malaysian Armed Forces hospitals and clinics, private General Practitioner (GP) clinics, and private health care facilities.
The Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry’s approach to the national vaccination programme for the pandemic is strategic and comprehensive. We wish to thank the ministry for providing a clear direction on the government’s plans to inoculate the population.
While certain logistics will still need to be ironed-out, this is indeed a good target that has been set. We are also pleased that the government is recognising the important role of the private GPs in carrying out the national vaccination programme. MMA looks forward to engaging with the ministry on these plans.
The private GPs have a long experience in giving vaccinations dating back to pre-independence. The 7,000 MOH-trained private GPs and their clinics are well distributed and close to the community in both urban and rural areas in the country but regrettably, have been under-utilised in managing the pandemic. We urge the government to maximise its access to a wider distribution of the vaccines to the population through increased private GP participation. This will speed-up the vaccination programme.
In its plans, the government should also prioritise locations with dense populations as they carry higher risk of Covid-19 transmissions. Many of the private GP clinics are located in these areas therefore access will be quicker and more convenient for the population.
Also, many of the patients managed by the private GPs have comorbidities which already qualify them to receive vaccines as per current plans in the national vaccination programme to prioritise vaccination of vulnerable groups.
Increasing private GP clinic participation in this national vaccination programme would also help the government reduce overall traffic at government vaccination sites. This will also cut down dependency on government manpower and resources in carrying out the programme as the GPs will be utilizing their own staff.
The GPs also have the experience in coordinating mass programmes as many are currently involved in the mass Covid-19 screening of foreign workers and also the community where the clinics are located. These programmes are coordinated individually by the participating clinics.
Of paramount importance, the government must ensure that the administering of the vaccines will be carried out by qualified, trained medical personnel with no involvement of non-healthcare middlemen or agents. Healthcare facilities administering the jabs must ensure proper patient care which will include management of the possible reactions to the jabs and not forgetting infectious disease prevention and control under strict guidelines from MOH. The highest standards of care must be maintained with these facilities accepting full medico-legal accountability.
Going forward, we urge MOSTI and MOH to work closely together on the national vaccination programme as there are many regulations, protocols and guidelines from MOH on patient safety and adverse events following immunization hence only qualified and trained medical personnel can give vaccinations.
Lastly, the government must ensure transparency. Never before has the country carried out a national vaccination programme on this scale and never before have vaccines been developed in record time. Therefore, we have the hurdle of winning over public confidence in getting vaccinated. This will require increased efforts in providing all necessary information on efficacy and safety. The rakyat must be consistently kept well informed.
Prof Dr Subramaniam Muniandy is the president of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).
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