KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 — Medical practitioners today urged the government to allow private general practitioners (GPs) to provide Covid-19 vaccines for paying patients, separate from the free public inoculation programme.
Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) former president Dr Ridzwan Bakar, Federation of Private Medical Practitioners of Malaysia (FPMPAM) president Dr Steven Chow Kim Weng, and Association of Specialists in Private Medical Practice Malaysia (ASPMP) president Dr Sng Kim Hock, in a joint statement today, pointed out that Malaysia’s Covid-19 vaccination rate was lagging behind many developed countries.
As of April 1, nearly 500,000 people have received Covid-19 vaccination with at least one dose, or just 1.6 per cent of Malaysia’s 32-million population. According to Our World In Data, about 16 per cent of Singapore’s population has received at least one dose as of March 29, while the UK and US have given at least one dose to 45 per cent and 28 per cent of their populations respectively.
“On this note, we urge the government to allow private medical centres, all general practitioners, to provide the vaccines on demand, as many patients are prepared to pay for the vaccines at a reasonable cost,” the doctors said.
“Anyone and everyone who comes to the clinic for the vaccine should be vaccinated. Those who wish to be vaccinated and are willing to pay for it should be given the option.”
The experts added that allowing the public to pay for their own vaccine will allow the Ministry of Health (MOH) to focus on those who are dependent on public health care for their needs.
However, the doctors said that ultra-cold vaccines are not suitable to be distributed by GPs.
“The other vaccines that do not have this special requirement can be used.”
So far, among the Covid-19 vaccines procured by the government, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs ultra-cold storage, while others like AstraZeneca, Sinovac, CanSino, and Sputnik V can be stored between two to eight degrees Celsius.
However, the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently said that the Pfizer vaccine can be stored in pharmaceutical freezers for up to two weeks, which is usually minus 20 degrees Celsius.
The medical experts also highlighted that GPs, who have been on the frontline since the beginning of the pandemic, have yet to even receive their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Similarly, CodeBlue reported earlier today that health care workers from the Selangor state government’s health care provider SelCare, who conduct regular Covid-19 community screening with the Selangor Task Force for Covid-19, have yet to be vaccinated, although they are regularly exposed to people who are possibly Covid-19 positive.
“We applaud the government for kick-starting the vaccination programme, beginning with the vaccination programme for frontliners. However, there are many frontliners, especially the GPs who have yet to receive their first dose of the vaccine.”
“This is not a good situation. The private sector should be involved whole-scale in this exercise. Import and distribution of the vaccine should be rolled out not only to private hospitals, but to all GP clinics,” the experts said.
“We applaud the private medical centres, in our case, Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur, for the efficient and smooth administration of the vaccination,” the doctors said as they received their Covid-19 vaccine from Pantai Hospital.
Dr Chow, Dr Ridzwan, and Dr Sng urged all Malaysians to come forward and to voluntarily register for coronavirus vaccination.
“We urge the public not to listen to rumours and fake news that there are serious side effects and deaths from the vaccines.”
They reminded the public that Covid-19 vaccination is safe and asked the public to protect themselves, their families, and the community.