By John Isaac
THE Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) must release specific data, especially on a district and sub-district level on the number of people registered for Covid-19 vaccination.
“This is so we can identify which target groups to focus on to educate and register them as we are approaching the second phase that will start on April 19.
“I read with concern on low registrations especially among those targeted for Phase 2 including those with disabilities (OKU).
“This the group which is supposed to be the main priority for protection as they are at a higher risk to develop severe symptoms or even face death in the event of contracting Covid-19,” said Dr Kelvin Yii.
So far, only about two million elderly people and those with chronic conditions have registered for Covid-19 vaccination under the programme’s second phase.
Dr Kelvin, the MP for Bandar Kuching, said that was only 22 per cent of the government’s target of vaccinating nine million people under Phase Two of the national inoculation drive.
“This appears to be a multi-faceted problem that does not only involve the unfamiliarity of senior citizens with the MySejahtera app, but also an apparent reluctance among the elderly to get vaccinated,” he said.
That is why data especially on a district and sub-district level, including their geographical locations must be released so a comprehensive intervention can be done by to encourage more to sign up for vaccination.
“This can also activate the elected representatives in the area, NGOs, civil societies and even the private sector to help remove any obstacle for registration that the people may have,” he said.
Dr Kelvin said the government should be looking into taking more pro-active steps to reach out to these vulnerable groups, including tapping into existing patient databases, both in the public and private sector and approaching them directly for registration.
In the UK, the General Practitioners (GPs) actually write invitation letters to patients under the database and help them with the registration.
“The government can’t just rely on registrations and must go to people directly, instead of waiting for people to turn up,” stressed Dr Kelvin.
The government should also come up with creative policies to incentivise more registrations and promote the benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine to allay some of the concerns.
“Maybe the government can look at examples for other countries including Israel, which is arguably furthest ahead in terms of vaccination,”.
In Israel, they have put forth a “Green Pass” proposal to incentivise vaccination uptake in the country which allows access to social, cultural, and sports events as well as gyms, hotels and others for individuals with immunity. This pass will also give exemption from quarantine after returning from international travels or even close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case.
However, such proposals do have flaws especially if we do not make it fully accessible to all segments of population, then it will defeat its purpose and likely lead to discrimination and abuse.
“That is why, the government must make sure all barriers to vaccination are removed for individuals who want to receive the vaccine, including obstacles related to access, logistics and health literacy, as well as provisions of reliable information to help people make an informed choice,” said the MP.
“All these are so important especially if we intend to reach the target of 70-80 per cent herd immunity,” added Dr Kelvin.