Get Your Act Together On Vaccine Communication, Pakatan Tells Putrajaya

The Pakatan Harapan Covid-19 and Vaccination Task Force tells the government to be realistic in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, “not oversell the idea to the people that things will always be great”.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) today told the government to streamline communications on the national Covid-19 vaccination programme, amid contradictory statements between officials.

The PH Covid-19 and Vaccination Task Force pointed out that both Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and Health Minister Dr Adham Baba have previously differed on the administration of daily vaccine doses. 

Khairy previously targeted 75,000 daily doses to be administered a day, whereas Dr Adham has cited 126,000 shots a day.

“Besides providing fodder to vaccine hesitancy and ammunition to anti-vaccination groups, it would similarly impact negatively on foreign investors’ confidence in our government’s capabilities. Investors are looking for clear signals of recovery and poor governing capabilities do not sit well with them,” the PH Covid-19 and Vaccination Task Force said in a statement today.

Malaysia’s national Covid-19 vaccination programme is set to be launched tomorrow, with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah to receive the first jabs.

The PH task force, led by former Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad, also pointed out that the country’s vaccination policy should be clear by now.

The Opposition MPs highlighted Dr Noor Hisham’s remarks that it might not be necessary to vaccinate undocumented foreign workers — as reported by the Ministry of Health (MOH) before MOH quietly deleted its Facebook post — contradicting Khairy’s comments that all residents in Malaysia, including undocumented migrants, would receive shots.

Khairy later explained that undocumented migrants would indeed get vaccinated under the national inoculation campaign, saying the government would work with civil society to allay migrants’ fear of detention.

“The Ministers and the technocrats need to get their act together in order to inspire trust and build confidence among the rakyat,” said the PH Covid-19 and Vaccination Task Force.

“Countries like Israel and the UAE are ahead by leaps and bounds in their mass vaccination campaigns, whilst we have only licensed one vaccine, and a few others are still pending Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).”

The PH lawmakers also stressed that vaccines will not end the Covid-19 pandemic, expressing concerns that the Malaysian government is acting as if vaccines are the silver bullet.

“They must know that the vaccines are part and parcel of a holistic program to mitigate, contain and help us to exit the pandemic. The other components of the program, namely strict adherence to SOPs, masking, physical distancing, better coverage of testing and contact tracing and meticulous attention to the FTTIS are similarly Critical Success Factors (CSF).”

The MPs also told the government to be realistic in rolling out coronavirus vaccines. 

“We must not oversell the idea to the people that things will always be great and everything will go according to plan. We must anticipate and plan for contingencies, and unforeseen circumstances as witnessed in our very recent experience. 

“Despite the MCO and EO, we have failed to arrest the trajectory of the pandemic curve, let alone flatten the curve.”

The first Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Malaysia last Sunday — 312,390 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine. Khairy said earlier today that another 182,520 doses would arrive tomorrow.

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