Nobody gets left behind: Vaccinating OKUs

MAB, Mosti, MoH and JKM’s collaboration on OKU vaccination programme ensures that the OKU community is not left out

by AZALEA AZUAR / Pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

MALAYSIA aims to achieve herd immunity against the Covid-19 infections by December this year and has recently ordered enough vaccines to cover 109% of the population.

However, the goal seems far-fetched, as experts have said it would take time.

International Medical University public health Prof Dr Lokman Hakim said it is almost impossible to achieve herd immunity by the targeted time.

As of June 18, 12.4% of the country’s population had received at least one dose of the vaccine, while only 4.9% have been fully vaccinated.

Though it has managed to surpass the vaccination rate of Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, Malaysia is still lagging behind Singapore, Cambodia and Brunei.

As per the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar’s target of administering 200,000 doses per day, the country administered more than 200,000 doses per day from June 15 to 17, but the number dropped to 180,066 on June 18.

While the government is also setting a target to vaccinate 300,000 individuals daily by August, many have been complaining that the Covid-19 vaccine rollout process is slow.

Former Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) Minister Yeo Bee Yin took to Facebook to express her disappointment.

“We were told repeatedly by the government (both Khairy and Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin), we’d reach 150,000 doses per day by June. However, the fact is, none of the days in the first week of June hit this target,” she said.

Yeo added that 168,244 doses per day must be administered for the remaining of June to reach 150,000 doses per day on average for the month.

When the registration for the second batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine was opened, many Malaysians were faced with technical flaws in the portal.

While there was overwhelming response for the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Covid-19 vaccination registration rate among senior citizens for Phase 2 of the country’s national immunisation programme was low.

Among the reasons for this were that many senior citizens did not have access to the Internet, as well as the lack of knowledge on using the online services. While some had their children to help with the online registration, others might not be as fortunate.

Other groups that often get left behind are those living in remote rural areas and the disabled.

When Covid-19 vaccinations were rolled out globally, there were many concerns on how Persons with Disabilities (OKUs) would have access to vaccines.

Mass vaccination centres (PPVs) need to be accessible to OKUs which include everything from physical spaces to the surrounding facilities and the environment.

Not only should the facilities be targeted towards OKUs, but also their caregivers.

Recently, vaccination began to be rolled out for the visually impaired beginning June 4 at the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur (KL).

The building’s Complex Dewan Ismail Salleh and the carpark were transformed into a PPV to accommodate 200 people daily until mid-July.

The programme is a joint collaboration between MAB and Mosti, Social Welfare Department (JKM) and the Health Ministry (MoH) which, at the moment, is only available for those living in the Klang Valley.

The registration process is through Google Forms and MAB’s internal call drive.

There are 52,000 visually impaired individuals in JKM records.

A JKM volunteer, Nor Atikah Jafri, was happy to be a part of the vaccination drive at MAB.

“This is the first time I am able to help the blind. They cannot write, so I help them with the forms and show them the way.

“I am happy to serve them while also helping MoH and MAB in the vaccination process,” she said.

Nor Atikah noticed the mixed reactions among those who were about to be vaccinated.

“Some were happy and some were worried. When the volunteers inform them about the Pfizer vaccine which they are receiving, they are relieved and more relaxed,” she said.

“There is no need to be afraid because the elderly, OKUs and those who are chronically ill have taken the vaccine. The risk of severe side effects is low,” Nor Atikah explained.

She also encouraged those who have been vaccinated to share any experience of side effects on social media, so that other people could feel more confident and be more prepared in taking the Covid-19 vaccines.

Former MAB student Norfiqah Syahira Ahmad Zaini was initially afraid of receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, but afterwards she felt fine.

“It actually felt like nothing at all. I am grateful now to be vaccinated. I hope my next dose will be done here,” she said.

Also present during the first day of the vaccine rollout was Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun who was reviewing the implementation of the OKU vaccination programme.

Rina was confident that this collaboration between MAB, Mosti, MoH and JKM will ensure that the OKU community is not left behind in the vaccination programme.

“To facilitate registration, MAB has set up a special call centre at 03-2272 2677 and to date, has received 1,900 applications.

“The MAB PPV is expected to be able to provide 200 vaccines every day with the involvement of 20 JKM volunteers to help the paramedics and doctors,” Rina said.

On June 16, Sime Darby Plantation Tower, Ara Damansara, began its operations as the first drive-through PPV for OKUs which could accommodate up to 200 recipients daily.