Vaccination: Doctor asks why indigenous people are the last to be considered

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By John Isaac

A VETERAN doctor has accused the federal government of being condescending in its attitude towards the Orang Ulu community in Baram by not considering them as a priority in the Covid-19 immunisation programme.

A Kelabit from Bario Asal village bordering East Kalimantan province of Indonesia, Dr Roland Dom Mattu, said it was shocking and unacceptable that the health of the rural communities was put at stake and not given the attention expected.

“It is again, as usual, we, the indigenous people in the interior, seem to be the last to be considered in everything – this country has to change this condescending attitude and treat us equally,” he told The Borneo Post.

With 43 years of medical practice, he is the chief Of medical services, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology at a private hospital in Miri city.

Dr Roland said he was moved to speak out after Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau expressed frustration that the planned Covid-19 vaccination for Baram had been postponed again until further notice after it was postponed twice.

The Ministry of Health had set a target of 8,000 recipients for the immunisation programme but Dennis balked at this condition, saying the federal government did not understand the reality on the ground in rural Sarawak, where the population is sparse and spread over a wide area.

Dr Roland Dom Mattu

On another matter, Dr Roland said the government should make it clear whether Malaysia had sufficient stock of the vaccines and had run out of it for the second phase of its nationwide inoculation programme.

“As I had mentioned to our local YB (elected representative) in a meeting months ago we should have gone ahead and buy our own vaccines and not rely on the federal government who as usual will make us the last priority,” he lamented, adding he had refrained from speaking out earlier to avoid being accused of being politically motivated.

Pointing to Sarawak’s touted large financial reserves, he said it could have been used to purchase its own vaccines instead of relying on the federal government, adding it is the time to walk the talk of autonomy which had been bandied around.

“In a crisis of this nature, let us work together, whether you are in the government or whether you are the opposition, for the health of all people,” he added.

He said the current rate of vaccination was unacceptable and the state’s target of completing the vaccination programme by end of August this year would be probably not achieved.