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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Health DG stresses fair distribution as private hospitals hope to sell vaccines

 


COVID-19 | In light of a request by private hospitals to be allowed to sell Covid-19 vaccines, Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has stressed the importance of equitable distribution especially when resources were scarce.

Under the government’s National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, frontliners and high-risk groups are prioritised ahead of the general adult population.

Asked this evening about the private hospitals’ request, Noor Hisham underscored that the government was already providing vaccinations at no cost.

“The government is already providing vaccines for free.

“The National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) issued conditional approval (for the vaccines) and the condition is for the government to obtain the vaccines and distribute them, including to private hospitals (to administer).

“Because we have limitations when it comes to vaccine procurement, we have to look at equity where we prioritise healthcare workers and frontliners in Phase 1 (of the immunisation programme),” he answered during a broadcasted press conference.

While he did not explicitly state the ministry’s position on the request by the Association of Private Hospital Malaysia (APHM), Noor Hisham stressed that vulnerable groups must also be prioritised over efforts to “commercialise” Covid-19 vaccines.

“We must look at equity and the need for the vaccine among vulnerable groups.

“They are prioritised ahead of those aged between 18 and 60,” he said.

According to the immunisation programme, high-risk groups to be vaccinated in Phase 2 include the elderly, differently abled and those with comorbidities like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Private hospitals have been roped in by the government to function as vaccination centres.

Earlier this week, the APHM urged Putrajaya to give private hospitals approval to buy Covid-19 vaccines from “other sources” on top of what Putrajaya was already buying.

They contended that selling vaccines to fee-paying customers would help the government achieve herd immunity faster, saying the existing programme would take “too long”.

NGO Suaram has since criticised the proposal, saying it would undermine the national immunisation programme plus widen the gap between the rich and poor. - Mkini

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