KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 – Sarawak’s high Covid-19 vaccination rate among 5 to 11 year old children at nearly 70 per cent is attributable to the state’s efforts to deliver vaccines to school children not registered on the government MySejahtera app.
Deputy Health Minister I Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali said at least 69.3 per cent of 286,000 eligible children aged 5-11 in Sarawak have received at least a single Covid-19 vaccine jab to date, even though only 36.3 per cent have registered for vaccination in the state.
Across other states in Malaysia, the Covid-19 vaccination coverage among under-12 children remains below 50 per cent, according to CovidNow data.
Dr Noor Azmi told the Dewan Rakyat today that the administration of Covid-19 vaccines in Sarawak does not depend on registrations and appointments given out on the MySejahtera app alone as schools also actively engage in issuing vaccination appointments.
“One of the main methods used in Sarawak is they (health workers) go to schools. Although the registration rate is quite low at 36.3% – especially in rural areas, where there is the geographical factor and many do not have the MySejahtera app or internet access – the team at the Ministry of Health (MOH), along with the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the state government, are very committed that they conduct school-to-school visits.
“So, this has been one of their main strategies — vaccinations via school-to-school visits and at vaccination centres for children who are not registered on MySejahtera, which has proven to be very successful,” Dr Noor Azmi said in response to Igan MP Ahmad Johnie Zawawi’s question on the progress of the Covid-19 National Immunisation Programme for Children (PICKids) in Sarawak.
According to Dr Noor Azmi, parents are also less hesitant in Sarawak, which has contributed to the high percentage of children vaccinated against Covid-19. Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has even dubbed Sarawak as “Darul Vaksin” (land of vaccines) due to the success of PICKids in the state, Dr Noor Azmi said.
“Across the peninsula, we have Covid-19 vaccination appointments, online bookings, offsite vaccination centres (PPVs), but the situation in Sarawak is different. If we look at CovidNow data, this (the approach in Sarawak) is clearly the best way,” Dr Noor Azmi said.
Using the same approach in neighbouring Sabah has also allowed the state’s PICKids coverage to increase to 22.1 per cent from less than 10 per cent at the start of the programme, Dr Noor Azmi said when asked by Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin about how Sarawak’s success can be emulated in Sabah.
Sabah has the third lowest vaccination rate among under-12 children, above Terengganu at 11.7 per cent and bottom-ranked Kelantan (9.5 per cent).
Dr Noor Azmi applauded Sabah’s Rapid Assessment and Vaccination Operation (RAVO) programme for its house-to-house outreach initiative which involves MOH officers assisting district health officers in administering Covid-19 vaccines.