Some health analysts believe it is better to educate and encourage vaccinations as opposed to making it compulsory
by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by BLOOMBERG
HEALTH experts are having mixed views on the plan to make Covid-19 vaccinations voluntary with certain quarters raising uncertainties about making it mandatory, while another faction suggests otherwise.
Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said making it mandatory to get vaccinated against Covid-19 would be a mistake.
He said there are many examples in the past of mandating vaccines use only to see it backfire resulting in greater opposition against them.
“It is better to inform, encourage and facilitate the vaccination without there being some form of legal imperative or mandate.
“Admittedly, it is also a harder approach to when vaccination is voluntary. People should be able to decide and make informed decisions. It is a form of civic duty and responsibility to be vaccinated,” Azrul told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).
He said achieving the goal of 70% of the population vaccinated against Covid-19 to reach herd immunity targets will be like running a marathon, adding that members of the public must be educated and prepared for the long haul.
Azrul said a vaccination programme in Malaysia, if it is rolled out smoothly, could take at least two years to achieve the 70% target.
He said using the voluntary approach could ensure those who come forward would do so willingly and possibly recruit others to also be vaccinated.
“General practitioners, private clinics should be incentivised to vaccinate as many people as possible. The greater the public awareness of the perceived threat from Covid-19, the higher the rates of vaccination,” he said.
He added that it is the best and more sustainable way forward to ensure people are not left behind.
On the other hand, public health medicine specialist for health policy, economics and finance at the International Islamic University Malaysia, Prof Dr Mohammad Farhan Rusli, said vaccinations should be made mandatory.
He said it is to ensure targeted populations are protected and that only can be achieved when everyone takes part.
“Voluntary options only allow for sporadic cases to occur and we must learn that these can have adverse effects like those who were not vaccinated for polio in Sabah.
“The issue should not be debated as all issues including religious ones have been addressed. It must be made compulsory. At times of emergency, important decisions need to be made for the people as it is for the greater good,” Mohammad Farhan told TMR.
He said it cannot be known for now if Malaysia will achieve herd immunity with voluntary vaccinations.
As of now, he said vaccines have been tested for six to nine months and it is unknown if it needs to be repeated yearly.
“That is why achieving herd immunity is difficult and will be unlikely if there is still an option to opt-out of vaccination,” he added.
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar recently said vaccination will be made voluntary where people can opt to sign up and give their consent for the injection through the MySejahtera application.
He said the government is looking to roll out the vaccine to Malaysians aged 18 years old and above.
He said the vaccination programme will start with a risk assessment to determine high-risk groups such as frontline workers, co-morbidity and senior citizens, followed by vaccinations for the general population.
After the injections, he said there will be surveillance for a few years, also known as Phase Four of the vaccination programme, to monitor any side effects of the vaccines.
According to the Health Ministry’s (MoH) recent online survey on the acceptance of Covid-19 vaccines, Khairy said about 67% of the respondents are keen to take the jabs.
He added that the vaccination also includes a portion of foreign workers, expatriates and other non-Malaysian residents.