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Saturday, April 10, 2021

‘Tough decision’ in September on mandatory vaccination - KJ

 


Drastic measures including mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations are on the cards once Malaysia’s vaccination campaign reaches a “critical point” in September, said the campaign’s coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said Malaysia will begin receiving an influx of vaccine deliveries in June, particularly from Pfizer and Sinovac, and supply will outpace demand in June or July.

By September, it is expected that vaccine administration rates will begin to slow not because of lack of vaccine doses or staff to administer it, but the lack of people willing to receive the vaccines.

“So I told the cabinet that I'm going to come back in September and advise cabinet whether or not we go for mandatory vaccinations in September. That is going to be a big call.

“We are not there yet, but as I said, September is really when we would have enough vaccines to vaccinate eight million people already registered and have more. And if we don't have more people registered by then, then we'd have to make a tough call,” he told an interview aired on BFM Radio today.

He added that September will also be the time when the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force would be able to make a determination whether Malaysia is on track to vaccine 70 percent of its population by the end of this year, thus achieving herd immunity against the disease.

As of yesterday, only 8.3 million people have signed up for Covid-19 vaccination, which amounts to 34.3 percent of those in the age group that is eligible for vaccination.

As for running Phase 2 and 3 of the vaccination program concurrently, Khairy said there are not enough doses available to do this in April.

However, this will change in the coming months as more vaccine deliveries arrive, and then the two phases can be run simultaneously.

“But I want to manage public expectations here. I've looked at the delivery schedule, I've looked at the bottlenecks we're facing for whatever reason. It's not because we don't have the staff or the people to vaccinate. We have great Health Ministry staff who can do this.

“It is because we don't have enough vaccines right now. That will continue from April until about May,” he said.

Phase 2 of the vaccination program is aimed at senior citizens, people with chronic illnesses, people with disabilities, as well as remaining frontliners who haven’t been vaccinated in Phase 1 of the program. About 9.4 million people are targeted in this phase.

Phase 3 will vaccinate Malaysia’s remaining adult population with priority given to those in Covid-19 “red zones”.

Science, Technology, and Innovation Ministry Khairy Jamaluddin

As of April 4, however, the Special Committee for Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply said only about 3.1 million people eligible for Phase 2 have signed up for vaccination.

They comprise 1,229,855 senior citizens, 1,741,935 people with chronic diseases, and 115,249 people with disabilities.

Meanwhile, when asked about the public outcry to choose vaccines, Khairy said the only places he knew where such an option is available are Serbia and Hong Kong.

“Other countries, you go, you take whatever is offered to you,” he said.

He said that for now, Malaysians would have to trust that the vaccines chosen by the country’s regulators are safe and effective, and take whatever vaccine is offered to them once they have received their appointment.

“Please rest assured if there is a vaccine that is not safe - that we get new data to show that its risks outweigh its benefits - we will pull that vaccine.

“If there is data to show that the vaccine has become totally ineffective against the new variants, we will pull that vaccine.

“So, we will continue to monitor the efficacy and safety of the vaccines that we offer to make sure these two things are not compromised,” he added. - Mkini

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