Covid-19 vaccines: Public’s confidence should be bolstered


THE nationwide Covid-19 vaccination programme would have a smooth process if the public is given ample information, with the support and involvement of all relevant stakeholders that could make the entire exercise more inclusive.

Experts in the health community also caution that any inefficiency in delivering the vaccination to the target group or low take-up rate among the public would mainly stem from the lack of education and information on the inoculation process and its benefit.

Universiti Malaya senior consultant psychiatrist Dr Muhammad Muhsin Ahmad Zahari said while the availability of the vaccine could elevate hope among the people, they should also be reminded that it does not mean the country is totally free from the deadly virus.

“I think the public’s confidence will be augmented. However, people still need to be vigilant as the pandemic will not be resolved overnight or even within months,” Dr Muhammad Muhsin told The Malaysian Reserve.

The first shipment of the Pfizer Inc-BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine is expected to arrive at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Sunday.

Dr Muhammad Muhsin said it would not be an easy task as vaccination itself might contribute to uneasiness among the public, especially among those who are against it or are generally sceptical about vaccines.

“It is even more challenging as there is a lot of wrong information circulating on the Internet and social media about the vaccine, while there are already existing myths about vaccination per se,” he said.

He said effective public education on the vitality of vaccination with adequate information on the safety profile is very important to reassure the public while ensuring the national vaccination programme is a success in the shortest time span as possible.

A statement from Pakatan Harapan (PH) yesterday proposed the government to include MPs from the bloc to be part of the Covid-19 Immunisation Committee at the federal level — an effort to show that the initiative is moved by bipartisan for the sake of the nation.

“Effective information will determine the success of the programme, so the government should prepare a comprehensive communication plan to explain this programme to the people through various mediums,” PH Immunisation Committee said.

Meanwhile, Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said the government could also utilise the expertise of the private sector, specifically pharmacists and general practitioners (GPs) who could be immunisers that are a vital part of the programme’s workforce.

“With the government targeting 126,000 people to be vaccinated per day, this should be an all-hands-on-deck approach. The government health system should not and cannot be expected to shoulder the burden alone, especially when it is dealing with the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic at the same time,” Azrul said.

Galen Centre research officer and registered pharmacist Winnie Ong said for those most vulnerable with severe illnesses — at least 7.5 million of the elderly, the disabled, and people with selected chronic illnesses — completing the two-dose regimen is an urgent task.

“Every delayed vaccination will cost lives. Deploying pharmacists and GPs to vaccination sites could be one mechanism to scale up the workforce to deliver the estimated 75,000-150,000 jabs required a day,” she said.

Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh said private hospitals are ready to discuss the mechanism of vaccination.

“We urge all citizens who are suitable for the vaccine to get themselves vaccinated.

“The vaccines are safe and the potential long-term complication of Covid 19 is far more severe than the unlikely side effects of the vaccine. Everyone has to wait for their turn and will be notified,” he said in a statement yesterday.