KUALA LUMPUR, April 21 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) today told the government to increase the country’s Covid-19 inoculation rate, instead of pacing it pending the arrival of additional vaccine supplies.
The PH Covid-19 vaccine committee — which includes Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming and Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii — said more could be done to accelerate the vaccination process to cover frontline workers and people at risk of developing severe disease or dying from Covid-19.
“The slower these priority groups get the vaccine, the longer time they are exposed to higher risk of contracting and spreading the disease,” the PH Covid-19 vaccine committee said in a statement today.
“The main consideration is to inoculate and protect as fast as we can with the current available supplies.
“For example, we have called for teachers, especially those in red zones like the Klang Valley, Johor, and Penang, to be vaccinated first to reduce the likelihood of schools being shut down due to a high number of Covid-19 cases but to date, we have not seen or heard of a systematic programme to vaccinate the teachers.”
Sarawak has closed all schools in red zone areas for 14 days since yesterday, amid a surge of Covid-19 cases in the state.
The PH vaccine committee also said that it is more necessary to speed up the vaccine rollout now, considering the spread of new Covid-19 variants around the world. Al-Jazeera reported that public health experts believe a new “double mutation” variant of the coronavirus may be contributing to a new wave of Covid-19 cases in India, the world’s second worst-hit country.
Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that the vaccination rates in Malaysia currently is a reflection of the supply of vaccines in the country. Khairy said Malaysia will only be receiving more and a steady supply of vaccines from June onwards.
“Blame cannot be put on vaccine supplies alone, but much more can be done now to speed up the current process and also prepare a foundation and framework to ensure a fast, efficient and smooth rollout once more stocks of the vaccine arrive,” PH said in response.
As of April 20, only 748,444 people in Malaysia have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, including 462,335 fully vaccinated individuals.
The Opposition coalition’s vaccine committee also said that the government has to secure sufficient manpower now in preparation for an increase in the number of vaccinations per day by fourfold from 40,000 to 160,000 doses per day when more vaccine supplies arrive.
“More non-medical volunteers should be recruited to complement and free up medical workers from being burdened by non-medical aspects of the program including registration, administration, call centres, notifications, facilitating crowds at vaccination centres, and many others,” the vaccine committee added.
They also asked for more manpower to be hired to handle the Covid-19 call centres. PH suggested for medical personnel to handle medically related questions on the vaccine, while non-medical personnel can handle non-medical notifications and appointments.
“The government should be looking at adopting modern technology such as chatbots and artificial intelligence as soon as possible to respond to predicted high queries even during Phase Two period and not wait until Phase Three of the programme.
“All these are important both to make sure people are properly notified and not their appointments, and also to address some concerns some that are having second thoughts about vaccination.”