KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 — Near an election, politicians typically canvass voters for support. This year, they’re canvassing their constituents to register for Covid-19 vaccination, a longer and much harder campaign.
Only about 8.4 million people have registered for Covid-19 vaccination as of April 10, comprising less than 35 per cent of adults aged 18 and above in Malaysia.
A grandfather from an Orang Asli community in Kampung Chemperoh in Janda Baik, Pahang, didn’t see the need to be vaccinated because he doesn’t leave his village, Ketari state assemblywoman Young Syefura Othman said.
“He said he doesn’t need the vaccine as he doesn’t go out from the village and meet other people, only goes to the forest during the day and gets back to his house at night,” the Ketari assemblywoman told CodeBlue in an interview.
“It took 30 minutes for us to convince him to register. We explained that even though he doesn’t meet the outsiders, his children and grandchildren go out from the village, meet other people and come back to the same house as him. I’m glad he finally agreed to register for vaccination.”
This pattern of reluctance was seen across all age groups. The Pahang DAP representative said that the government should work with the Department of Orang Asli Development (JAKOA) for better engagement, education, and explanation to the indigenous people on the importance of getting vaccinated.
Besides six Orang Asli communities, Syefura and her team has conducted the coronavirus vaccine registration programme in four Chinese villages, while the rest were mostly Malay villages and residential areas close to town. She noted that on average, 25 per cent of them didn’t want to register for their jabs.
“We got around 50 registrations for each mobile counter. So I can say roughly close to 600 to 700 registrations so far,” Syefura said.
However, on average, in all the places she visited, more than half of the residents approached changed their minds and agreed to get vaccinated.
Syefura told CodeBlue that within the Chinese community, she noticed that they were excited to get vaccinated, but didn’t know how to go about registering for it. On the other hand, the Malay community, especially in the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) areas, were slightly more hesitant to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Some don’t feel the need to get the vaccine, some think they are too old for the vaccine, afraid of the vaccine and its side effects, and believe the negative stories that have been shared on social media.”
MySejahtera Not The Friendliest App For Kuching Elderly
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii from Sarawak, during his Covid-19 vaccine registration programmes, noted that many of the elderly people don’t know how to operate the MySejahtera application.
“Majority that we deal with is that they are unfamiliar with the app itself. Some do not even know they need to register themselves, thinking that it’s automatic and the hospital will call them,” Dr Yii told CodeBlue.
“The fact that the MySejahtera app is also not the friendliest of apps also plays a factor, with many elderly not sure how to operate it or even have a smartphone,” the DAP lawmaker added, referring to those above the age of 65.
“In Kuching, many still manually write their name when they enter a premise because they do not have a smartphone or do not know how to operate it.”Dr Kelvin Yii, Member of Parliament for Bandar Kuching
The Bandar Kuching MP has conducted over seven mobile vaccine registration exercises in KMC Flats, Tabuan Jaya, Poh Kong Park, Sungai Maong Bazaar, Carpenter Street, and Jalan Ang Cheng Ho, among others in the Sarawak capital city of Kuching so far. He plans to expand Covid-19 inoculation registration drives to more than thrice a week not only in his constituency, but also the neighbouring constituencies of Stampin or Petra Jaya, if needed.
Dr Yii and his team have registered around 1,100 people for Covid-19 shots through their mobile service and office.
Besides issues with the app, Dr Yii noted some level of hesitancy due to concerns over the safety of coronavirus vaccines, but said the majority of them can be convinced to sign up upon listening to proper explanation.
Vaccine Safety Big Concern In Gopeng
Former Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye highlighted that in his Perak constituency of Gopeng — a semi-urban and multiracial constituency with a majority of lower middle class and bottom 40 per cent (B40) population — many people were concerned about the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Most people who came wanted to register for the vaccine. However, repeated questions are still being asked about, is the vaccine safe? Can they take the vaccine when they have had a heart attack or coronary heart disease before?” Dr Lee told CodeBlue.
The PKR lawmaker explained that all patients with diabetes, hypertension, stroke, lung disease, heart disease, liver disease, and renal failure, as well as the elderly, must get vaccinated early, as Covid-19 infection is deadly among these groups of people.
“Vaccines are safe.”Dr Lee Boon Chye, Member of Parliament for Gopeng and former Deputy Health Minister
“More than 500 million population received vaccines so far and the preliminary results just confirm the earlier clinical trial results, i.e. almost 100 per cent protection from severe Covid disease for those vaccinated, the transmission of the virus can be reduced after vaccination, (and) there is little to differentiate between the different types of vaccine in term of safety and efficacy.”
The Gopeng MP said that his office has registered over 2,000 people in more than 10 areas in his constituency for the coronavirus vaccine.
Besides safety concerns, Dr Lee also pointed out that some, especially the elderly, had concerns about going to vaccination centres on their appointment dates.
Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said that children with dependents in other states will be allowed to cross state borders to bring their parents for vaccine appointments.
Petaling Jaya MP Works With Doctors To Boost Vaccine Confidence
Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah has conducted five registration programmes in the Lembah Subang One and Lembah Subang Two public housing flats, PJ Old Town Wet Market, Ara Impian, and the Taman Medan public health clinic.
Residents in her Selangor constituency are mixed in terms of financial backgrounds. For example, in Bukit Gasing, most of them are from the middle to upper middle income groups, while in PJ Old Town, household income is below RM3,000 monthly.
Maria and her team managed to register 445 people for Covid-19 vaccination by working with doctors from Klinik Kesihatan Taman Medan, who give presentations on Covid-19 and the importance of getting vaccinated.
“Having the doctors at hand helped to answer the concerns with authority. This is important as our participants ask very basic questions-side effects, will they die, how long will they have to wait, related rumours on vaccines that are not effective or cause more health issues,” Maria told CodeBlue.
“These were answered by the doctors and my office chipped in on registration processes.”
In the areas where she conducted Covid-19 vaccine registration programmes, Maria said only a minority didn’t want to get vaccinated as they were misinformed about the vaccine, but were more than willing to register after listening to correct information.
The PKR lawmaker also pointed out that access to phones was an issue in all places that her office had gone to.
“Government has assumed that everyone has smartphones or access to the internet. This is not the case in urban PJ. To me, the government has failed to understand that issue of connectivity.”Maria Chin Abdullah, Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya
“Secondly, once registered, people didn’t know when they will be informed if they don’t have phones or if they share phones with their family members.”
Maria urged the government to use old school methods, such as mobile vans to disseminate information and to help with the vaccine registration, saying: “Go to the low-cost flats and public housing flats, densely populated areas, reach out to the Orang Asli and do the registration manually in such marginalised areas.”