KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) today called for staff and elderly residents of nursing homes to be vaccinated in the first phase of the national Covid-19 immunisation programme.
The Opposition coalition said priority vaccination for elderly care homes would cut hospitalisation rates, especially for severe cases, and overall mortality rates in the country, amid a rise in Covid-19 deaths.
“The risk of death for elderly care home residents is very high. Older people who are living in care homes are particularly vulnerable not just because of their medical conditions, but also because of cramped living conditions,” the PH committee on Covid-19 vaccination, led by former Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad, said in a statement.
“That is why proactive steps are needed to protect not only the health of the residents but also the employees who care for them.”
Yesterday, 22 Covid-19 deaths were reported, pushing Malaysia’s cumulative death toll to 1,005. A total of 471 people died from the coronavirus in Malaysia last year, while 534 died in just 48 days this year.
High-risk groups vulnerable to severe disease and death from Covid-19, such as the elderly and people with underlying health conditions, have been scheduled in the second phase of the national Covid-19 vaccination programme that will be launched on February 26. The second phase is targeted to start in April, after frontline workers in the first phase.
The PH committee cited data from Israel — which has the fastest Covid-19 vaccination rate in the world and has prioritised vaccination for the elderly — where vaccination successfully reduced the Covid-19 infection rate by 94 per cent and the hospitalisation rate by about 90 per cent.
Israel has given the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to about 40 per cent of its nine million population, while more than 28 per cent have reportedly received the second dose. More than 80 per cent of Israel’s residents aged over 60 have already been vaccinated, DW reported.
PH lawmakers in its Covid-19 vaccination committee noted that in Malaysia, out of 2.3 million people above 65, about 30,000 to 40,000 lived in care homes or nursing homes. About 8,000 people are elderly care home workers. There are an estimated 1,500 elderly care homes in Malaysia, out of which only 350 are registered.
The Opposition MPs called for workers and residents of both registered and unregistered elderly care homes to be vaccinated, saying: “Elderly care homes can be super-spreaders of the virus if proactive preventive measures are not taken.”