1. There have been reports of queue jumping for Pfizer vaccines in the national vaccine rollout programme. What do you make of this, and what might be causing it?
When we first launched the vaccine rollout in February 2021, there were many non-frontliners and non-essential services personnel who were queue jumping. These were mainly VVIPs and families of VVIPS. I hope we have seen the end of this
I hope the case of the 20-year-old queue jumping and received the Pfizer vaccine is an isolated case. This incident must be investigated, and anyone caught facilitating this immoral practice must be dealt with sternly in order to send a message to all staff members in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) that we are just, fair and equitable in the administration of the programme.
The double standards that we still see in the treatment of politicians and VVIPs who flaunt the SOPs does not have any room in professional work culture.
2. What are the repercussions of queue jumping?
By queue jumping, you deny the high-risk groups in Phase Two from getting the vaccine.
These are your parents and grandparents, your uncles and aunts who have co-morbidities e.g. diabetes, heart disease, those on dialysis, the elderly in nursing homes and the physically and mentally challenged (OKUs).
They are at the highest risk of getting severe Covid-19, of being hospitalised for Covid-19, of being admitted to the ICUs, and of dying from Covid-19.
Let me give you some indication of the risks involved. I had to use data from the US, because the Ministry of Health (MOH) has refused to share data with us since September last year.
- Your 70-year-old grandfather is 400 times at risk of being hospitalised with Covid-19, when compared to the 20-year-old young man.
- Your 70 year old grandfather is 600 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than the 20-year-old young man.
I hope this would help you to understand the sins of queue jumping.
3, We have seen the government urging people who don’t have appointments to stay home, and yet there continue to be people who try their luck and wait outside the vaccination centres. What message would you send to them? How can we address this mindset?
This is a logistical issue to be dealt with immediately and firmly by the MOH. The MOH needs to make it unequivocally clear to the public that they will not entertain persons who are not eligible crowding at the vaccine centres.
The Pfizer vaccine can now be stored in a fridge between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius for one month. So no Pfizer vaccines will be wasted, once removed from the original temperature of -80 degrees Celsius.
The nurses will only open the Pfizer vaccine vials when there are six people in line for the vaccine. The Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines can be stored at this usual fridge temperature.
4) Where are we on the vaccine rollout timeline? Are we achieving the targeted number of vaccinations per day?
We are now in Phase Two of the vaccine rollout, whereby we are serving the above-mentioned high-risk groups. This process will take place between April and August 2021.
The latest data on the immunisation rate charts an average of 34,000 doses per day in the past 14 days.
If you remember, the health minister claimed that by the end of February 2021, 126,000 doses will be administered daily. The vaccine minister touted a figure of 75,000 daily doses.
We are only doing about 27 per cent and 45 per cent of the daily doses as claimed by the two ministers.
Malaysia has only immunised 3.6 per cent of the population with one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. This is nine times slower than neighbouring Singapore, which has vaccinated 32.5 per cent of its population.
5) What steps would you like to see taken to ramp up the speed of vaccination nationally?
Since early this year, I have made a few suggestions to the MOH and the Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV). These include:
- The conditional registration of more vaccines by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Authority (NPRA). Since the MOH is compliant with the guidelines of the WHO, they should heed the recommendations of the WHO which has authorised under emergency use the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Covershield, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and most recently Sinopharm vaccines. The Sinovac vaccine which is conditionally registered with the NPRA has yet to be recognised by the WHO.
- The Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM), private hospitals, GPs and state governments should be allowed to procure and administer vaccines. They have better and wider experience than the MOH in procuring and administering vaccines. We are in this mess now because the MOH has no track record in adult vaccinations, compared to the private health care sector. When the Indian health ministry first launched its Covid-19 vaccine programme, they were only able to administer 300,000 doses per day. When the private doctors and hospitals became involved, the figure was ramped up seven times at two million doses per day. The vaccines used will be above and beyond the vaccine stockpile of the MOH. With the movement of adults from the public to the private vaccine programme, more space will be created and those at the bottom half of the vaccine hierarchy would advance faster and get an earlier date for their shots.
- The fears of creating inequity of vaccine distribution is unfounded. If anything, the equity of the vaccine programme would be better protected because young Muslim pilgrims planning to perform the hajj do not need to jump the queue and push back 30,000 more deserving and high-risk adults. They should rightfully pay for the Covid-19 vaccines at private facilities.
- Migrant workers and refugees who would bear the brunt of inequitable access to vaccines can now be afforded similar opportunities by their employers and by state governments to prevent this potential Covid-19 epicentre from transmission to the wider community.
- This programme would also allow our clients to pick their vaccines of choice. Some would prefer the classical inactivated vaccines (Sinopharm, Sinovac) which is associated with relatively lesser Adverse Effects Following Immunizations (AEFI). Other well-read clients may prefer the latest mRNA technology vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer) which has the widest research base in both clinical trials and real-world experience. Others may just want to enjoy the single-shot Johnson & Johnson and CanSinoBio vaccines.
- If a segment of the population is able to pay for the vaccines, is this not something that the government should welcome to cushion the financial impact to the national economy?
- With the restricted and unpredictable vaccine supply chain, I am hopeful that the MOH and JKJAV will consider delaying the second dose of the vaccine, so that more first doses can be given to more people in order for us to achieve herd immunity faster and mitigate the risk of developing variants of concern (VOC) in the community.
6. In terms of outreach for registration, what else can be done within communities?
I think if every MP and state assemblyperson can organise campaigns in their constituencies to enhance registration for vaccines, then much can be achieved. They should undertake this with the same vigour and enthusiasm displayed during election campaigns.
For those who have registered, transportation for them to get to the vaccination centres should be organised, like what happens during elections.
7. While we hear news reports of hesitancy among the older generation, we also hear of concerns and worries from senior citizens who have registered and have not heard anything since with regards to their appointments.
Our elders need to know that they are at high risk for getting severe Covid-19. This is further enhanced by the fact that they also have other pre-existing illnesses, and are therefore at higher risk of being hospitalized or succumbing to the disease
All the vaccines have been tested in clinical trials and they have been vindicated and validated through real-world experience.
Without exception, all of the vaccines will protect you from severe Covid-19 disease, from being hospitalised, and from dying from Covid-19. This is a remarkable achievement.
More than a billion vaccine doses have been administered, so you are not guinea pigs! My 92-year-old uncle has had the vaccine and he is alive and kicking.
Do not listen to the nonsense, the fake news, and the conspiracy theories that are going around on social media. If you have any doubts or concerns, please discuss with your family doctor. Like me, he has had the vaccine and he will clear your doubts and anxieties.
If you have registered, you will get your notification soon.
The MOH is doing another opt-in for the AstraZeneca vaccine, and I totally agree that senior citizens above 60 years old should be prioritised, instead of the previous opt-in for those above 18 years old.
If you do not have a vaccine appointment date yet, do opt in for the AstraZeneca vaccine. The UK, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Australia and many other developed countries have recommended the AstraZeneca vaccines for persons above 50 years old (above 40 years old in the UK). The risk of blood clots is the least in these age groups, and the benefits are phenomenal.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.