The Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) must release specific data, especially on the amount of people at the district and sub-district level who have registered for Covid-19 vaccination.
This will determine which groups to educate or even incentivise to register, especially when we are approaching the programme’s second phase that will start on April 19.
I read with concern on low registrations, especially among those targeted for Phase Two, including those with disabilities (OKU), when they are supposed to be the main priority group for protection, since they are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms if they should contract Covid-19.
Based on a statement by Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, only about two million elderly people and those with chronic conditions have registered for Covid-19 vaccination under the programme’s second phase.
This is only 22 per cent of the government’s target of nine million in Phase Two of the national Covid-19 inoculation drive that targets those who are particularly vulnerable to developing severe disease or dying from Covid-19.
This could be due to a variety of reasons, including senior citizens’ unfamiliarity with suing the MySejahtera app, and also an apparent reluctance among the elderly to get vaccinated.
That is why data, especially at the district and sub-district level, including geographical locations, must be released so that a comprehensive intervention can be done by the whole of society to further encourage or incentivise more to sign up for vaccination.
Elected representatives, NGOs, civil societies and even the private sector can also be roped to facilitate registration efforts.
The government should be looking into taking more proactive steps to reach out to these vulnerable segments, including making use of existing patient databases, both from the public and private sector, and approaching them directly for registration.
In the UK, general practitioners (GPs) actually write invitation letters to patients under the database and help them with the registration.
The government should not merely rely on voluntary registrations. They must approach people directly, instead of waiting for people to turn up.
By doing so, they can help build trust by understanding the concerns and provide appropriate, transparent and accessible information, including empirical data on vaccine effectiveness in the population, adverse effects of Covid-19 on different population segments, and relative health risks from contracting Covid-19 versus receiving the vaccine.
On top of that, the government should come up with creative policies to incentivise more registrations and promote the benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine in order to allay concerns.
The government can look at examples from other countries, including Israel, which is arguably furthest ahead in terms of vaccination.
In Israel, they have devised a “green pass” proposal to incentivise vaccination uptake in the country which allows access to social, cultural, and sports events as well as gyms, hotels and others for individuals with immunity.
This pass will also provide exemption from quarantine after returning from international travel or even close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case.
However, such a proposal does have its flaws especially if we do not make it fully accessible to every segment of the population. It will then be self-defeating and will likely lead to discrimination and abuse.
That is why the government must make sure that all barriers to vaccination must be removed for individuals who want to receive the vaccine, including obstacles related to access, logistics and health literacy, as well as providing reliable information to help people make an informed choice.
All these policies must be properly studied, taking into account local context and feasibility of implementation.
Above all, the government must be proactive in reaching out and finding ways to incentivise people to sign up especially those in the vulnerable groups. This is important if we intend to achieve the target of 70-80 per cent herd immunity.
Dr Kelvin Yii is the Member of Parliament for Bandar Kuching.
This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.