KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 — “I don’t have a smartphone. I don’t know how to register for Covid-19 vaccination,” says Samy, a 66-year-old man from Johor with chronic conditions that put him at higher risk of severe disease and death from Covid-19.
“I have asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, and heart disease. I want to get Covid-19 vaccine. I am scared of the virus, but I don’t know how to get the vaccine,” Samy, who did not give his full name, told CodeBlue.
Samy, who lives alone in Pasir Gudang without family members at his side, said that he receives financial aid from the Social Welfare Department to survive. He also visits the Pasir Gudang public health clinic (Klinik Kesihatan) for monthly health check-ups and medication.
When asked why he did not register for the Covid-19 vaccine at the Pasir Gudang government clinic, he said: “I don’t know to whom I should ask for the vaccine. The place is big. I once asked a nurse and she said everything should be done using the internet.”
“I am using an old Nokia phone. I can only send SMS from my phone,” Samy added.
In Singapore, senior citizens aged 60 and above do not need to do prior registration for Covid-19 vaccines. They are allowed to walk-in to any vaccination centres and get Covid-19 vaccine jabs on the spot, beginning from June this year.
The Public Health England (PHE) estimated that England’s Covid-19 vaccination programme prevented approximately 14,000 deaths in people aged 60 years or older and 42,000 hospitalisations among those aged 65 and above as of May 30 this year. Based on PHE’s Covid-19 vaccine surveillance report Week 24, more than 80 per cent of seniors aged 60 and above have received at least the first vaccine dose in England.
Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said recently that about 1.9 million people aged 60 years and above nationwide have been vaccinated against Covid-19 with at least one dose as of June 23. This comprises about 55 per cent of the 3.5 million population aged 60 years and above in Malaysia.
Covid-19 Vaccine Registration Services Inconsistent At Public Clinics
CodeBlue contacted the general line of several government health clinics randomly to enquire about the facilities available for patients to register for their Covid-19 shots.
The Kelana Jaya and Shah Alam Seksyen 19 public health clinics in Selangor mentioned that they do not prepare any vaccine registration stations for seniors who come for their check-ups.
“The elderly people can’t register here. We do not have any special counter. They should either call the vaccine registration hotline number or use the website to register for the vaccine [Covid-19],” a personnel from Shah Alam Seksyen 19 public health clinic, who answered the phone call, explained to CodeBlue.
“If they are unable to register for the vaccine, they should get help from children or anyone else.”
A staff from Kelana Jaya public health clinic in Selangor said: “We do not have any special counter to register elderly people for vaccines. But those who are aged above 60, can go to Petaling Health Department for a walk-in registration. But I am not very sure about it.”
It is to be noted that elderly people generally visit public health clinics for monthly check-ups and medication for underlying health conditions. Only people with severe comorbidities will be sent to general hospitals.
Nevertheless, the Temerloh public health clinic in Pahang stated that it will help the public manually register for Covid-19 inoculation.
“Well, you don’t have to bring the elderly people to the clinic. You can just bring their identification card, and we will help them to register for the vaccines,” a personnel from the government clinic explained to CodeBlue.
Health Minister Dr Adham Baba did not answer CodeBlue’s queries about which government clinics provide Covid-19 vaccine registration services.
Perak NGO Helps With Covid-19 Vaccine Registration
The Perak Women For Women Society (PWW) spoke to CodeBlue about its experience in getting Ipoh residents to register for the Covid-19 vaccine.
PWW co-founder and secretary Yip Siew Keen said that PWW carried out vaccine registration work in several areas in Ipoh like low-cost PPR flats and squatter areas.
“Vaccine registration is not our core business. We distribute food and grocery items to people who live in PPR flats in Ipoh,” Yip told CodeBlue.
“But some of them asked us if we could help them to register for the vaccines. So we started to have a special counter for it each time we distribute food.”
Yip also mentioned that these people, particularly from the lower-income category, can’t think of getting vaccinated as securing food on the table is a big challenge for them.
“During movement restrictions, many have lost their jobs. They are poor. Food is their primary problem. How can they think about getting vaccinated?
“Some are not even aware of the vaccines. We tried to help explain about Covid-19 vaccines to them. But we are not medical professionals. We do not have answers to all their questions,” Yip added.
However, Yip said that PWW is only helping people register for Covid-19 vaccination but will not follow up with them on their vaccine appointment dates.
“We can only help them to register. We do not collect any of their personal particulars. So, we don’t call them individually to inform them about their vaccine appointment dates. We have limited manpower as well,” Yip mentioned.
Look At Missed Vaccine Appointments
“The hospitals are overwhelmed with Covid-19 and other patients. So many don’t have the time and energy to do Covid-19 vaccine registration for the elderly people,” a medical officer told CodeBlue on condition of anonymity.
According to the doctor, besides vaccine registration, missed vaccine appointments among senior citizens is another important aspect to look into.
“Any organisations or NGOs can help them with the vaccine registration. But who is going to follow up with these elderly people on their appointment date?”
“The appointment dates are being announced in MySejahtera application or through SMS. But we have to acknowledge that many of the elderly people in the country are not technology savvy. They can’t access these features,” the medical officer added.
The doctor also pointed out that limited resources in MOH and the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) has restricted personnel from calling elderly people who registered for their jabs and informing them about their vaccine appointment dates.
“But we have to find a solution for this. Perhaps, the authority should think of channeling this task to any NGOs according to different localities. They can at least call the elderly people and inform them of the vaccine appointment date.”