KUALA LUMPUR, August 9 — The Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health (MSOSH) today called for the postponement of Covid-19 vaccination privileges, amid poor vaccine coverage in multiple states.
MSOSH pointed out that vaccination coverage with double doses in states under Phase Two of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) — Penang, Perak, Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan, Sabah — is less than half of their adult population, amid rising Covid-19 cases in those states.
“First, daily cases in the country are still high at almost 20,000 with the percentage of Category Four and Five cases increasing to 600 people a day. These critically ill patients will need oxygen assistance for at least 10 to 21 days,” said MSOSH president Dr Shawaludin Husin in a statement today.
Yesterday, Malaysia reported the highest number of Covid-19 fatalities — 360 deaths including 85 brought-in dead cases.
Dr Shawaludin, who referred to this statistic, said: “While this trend is increasing, the quality of services to non-Covid-19 patients is also affected due to the greater focus on Covid-19 cases.”
According to Dr Shawaludin, a medical practitioner who specialises in occupational safety and health, the new relaxation of movement restrictions “will cost more lives”, although he acknowledged that the government needs to balance the impact of lockdowns on the economy.
“More effective and thorough policies are needed to address this more clearly.”
While certain exemptions for fully vaccinated people, such as visiting places of worship, are applicable across all states, other freedoms like dine-ins and interdistrict travel are only available for double-jabbed individuals with digital Covid-19 vaccine certificates in Phase Two and Phase Three states.
Penang, Perak, Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan, Sabah are currently in Phase Two, whereas Perlis, Labuan and Sarawak are in Phase Three. Only Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah, Johor, and Melaka are still under Phase One of the NRP. The Greater Klang Valley region, however, has fully vaccinated more than half of their adult population.
“Those who have received the vaccine can still infect each other and this is very risky for those who have not been fully vaccinated,” Dr Shawaludin added.
As of August 8, all the states under Phase Two — Penang (28.8 per cent), Perak (30.2 per cent), Pahang (26.3 per cent), Terengganu (32.4 per cent), Kelantan (25.5 per cent) and Sabah (17.1 per cent) — have not fully vaccinated at least half of their adult population.
“We are worried that at a time when vaccination rates are low in these areas, health services and facilities in these states will be paralysed like in the Klang Valley,” said Dr Shawaludin.
“Therefore, this is not the right time to test new SOP practices with such flexibility. It will continue to exhaust frontline workers who are already tired, affect the quality of care, and endanger the lives of health workers.”
Meanwhile, Dr Shawaludin also called on corporates and non-governmental organisations to mobilise aid for public hospitals, especially in the Klang Valley and other severely affected states.
“We are asking for continued assistance in the form of medicines, beds, oxygen supplies and supporting equipment such as N95 face masks, gloves and isolation gowns because they are not enough.”
In fact, infectious disease expert Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman also mentioned that it is too early to relax movement restrictions, as several states may face worse consequences from emerging Covid-19 outbreaks, compared to the Klang Valley whose hospitals are currently full.