Some urge the government to speed up immunisation programme, others say Malaysia is doing well compared to other countries.
PETALING JAYA: There has been a mixed reaction by health experts on the progress of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, with some saying the vaccination rollout is on track and others calling for it to be speeded up.
This comes after many complained of the slow vaccination rollout, including former prime minister Najib Razak, who said on Facebook that it may take years for Malaysia to achieve herd immunity.
Najib posted a progress report of the programme on Wednesday, noting that Malaysia’s vaccination rate is low compared to other countries.
“Based on this rate, it will take us 6.4 years to vaccinate 80% of Malaysian population with two doses to achieve herd immunity,” he said.
As of March 18, a total of 385,126 people out of 500,000 from the frontliners segment in phase one of the programme have received their first vaccination shots. In addition, those who had received their first dose such as Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had received their second dose recently.
Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib defended the progress of the programme, saying Malaysia is doing well under phase one of the programme by addressing the protection needs of frontliners in essential and critical services.
“Selangor, Sabah and Perak are the top three states with the most number of people who have received their first shot. We are told that Labuan and Terengganu have in fact completed vaccinating their frontliners with their first shots under phase one,” he told FMT.
Azrul noted that other countries are also facing challenges in their vaccination programmes.
“This is the largest vaccination programme in the history of this country, which is unprecedented and being done in haste. There are bound to be problems. What is important is for the government to learn from them and make course corrections quickly. There’s no real value in comparing with other countries.
“There is only one set of data that matters at the moment, and that is how many people living in Malaysia have been vaccinated against Covid-19? The sooner that reaches at least 60% the better for all of us, the economy and the country,” he said.
Dr Michael Jayakumar, a former Sungai Siput MP, advised the government not to rush the vaccination process.
“We should not rush because the movement control order (MCO) has managed to bring down the infection rates and daily cases. We are not like other countries such as Brazil where their infection is spreading like ‘wildfire’. There is no need to be desperate,” he told FMT.
He said the real concern is to convince the “vaccine hesitants” to be inoculated.
However, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said the distribution of the vaccines was not being carried out “equally”.
“We did start a bit late, and our phase one is not going smoothly in all states, where some are much slower than others. The probable reason is the shortage of vaccines or distribution difficulties. Hopefully, this will be ironed out soon,” MMA president Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said.
Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said while a smooth and well-planned programme is more important than a rushed one, the vaccination programme must target at least 80% of the population vaccinated within one year to achieve herd immunity.
“If we cannot achieve at least 80% within the 12-month window, we may face a problem if vaccine protection lasts less than 12 months, or when virus variants emerge.
“Under the vaccine programme, more and more centres will be set up and the daily vaccination rate will certainly increase. The initial slow rollout is expected and I think this is on purpose and it will certainly accelerate later,” he said.
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