Health experts urge tighter SOPs to avoid outbreak at PPVs

People should assume that Covid-19 is all around them, with an accelerated risk of infection if SOPs are not strictly followed


AS THE country ramps up its immunisation programme on a larger scale, authorities are urged to tighten the standard operating procedures (SOPs) at vaccination centres (PPVs) since they have the potential of becoming hubs of new

Covid-19 infections. Malaysian Medical Association president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy stressed that people should assume that Covid-19 is all around them, with an accelerated risk of infection if SOPs are not strictly followed.

He said as thousands are coming to these PPVs, the organisers must tighten preventive measures even more than before.

Dr Subramaniam suggested that one of the most effective steps to take is to have proper crowd management.

“Large numbers of people can be vaccinated at each PPV, but their appointments must be spaced out to allow proper crowd control.

“In choosing suitable venues for the PPVs apart from their sizes, the building’s natural ventilation should also be taken into consideration. Escalators, stairs and ramps would be safer compared to taking the lift,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Dr Subramaniam opined that more private healthcare centres should be roped in to help reduce overall traffic at PPVs.

He also noted that 24-hour drive-through vaccinations should be something to consider, provided the location is suitable and traffic is controlled, to avoid large numbers of people waiting in the same space.

“We believe the PPVs are given guidelines to protect both the vaccinators and those coming to the centre.

“On top of that, all non-healthcare volunteers at these centres should be fully vaccinated ahead of carrying out their duties, wear N95 masks and face shields, and strictly comply with the ventilation guidelines,” he said.

Osel Group chief clinical and innovative scientist Dr Kris See said as more people go to the PPVs, there would unfortunately be more risks for Covid-19 infection, which has occurred at a few centres recently.

He described the situation as “Catch-22”, where on the one hand the rate of vaccinations needs to be hastened and on the other, there is a need to forbid the entry of suspected Covid-19 infected individuals.

To curb such issues, Dr See said policymakers should consider increasing incentives for individual healthcare centres and clinics to raise their vaccination rate, while at the same time reducing the need for more mega PPVs.

“General practitioner clinics have, since the start of the pandemic, been an underutilised pool of resources, where they can equally vaccinate more people while also catering to any effects that come with vaccination.

“This would undoubtedly reduce large crowds at any single vaccination centre, yet still maintain the momentum for vaccination,” he told TMR.

Dr See stressed that healthcare workers should screen for Covid-19 periodically whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic, adding that screening and security must be tightened at the entry level in these PPVs.

“I have always advocated for only fully vaccinated healthcare personnel to carry out their work in these PPVs.

“The communities, if unwell, should always consult their individual doctors and to rule out any risk of Covid-19 infection before they attend vaccination,” he said.

Dr See added that the public-private-people approach is the utmost priority in combating this pandemic.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar told TMR that mega PPVs set up nationwide will be safe for all attendees, as long as people comply with SOPs at all times.

However, he opined that the authorities should consider reducing the dependency on mega PPVs, as there are many other outlets which are suitable for vaccinations.

He said in the event of outbreaks at PPVs, the public should be informed immediately before the situation becomes complicates and triggers new clusters.

Last week, the Health Ministry announced that the Ideal Convention Centre PPV in Shah Alam had become a cluster as a large number of the volunteers and workers were infected with Covid-19.

Other instances of outbreaks at mega PPVs included the Setia City Convention Centre (SCCC), where seven staff were identified positive on July 11.

It was reported that the SCCC volunteers were allegedly not informed by the management regarding the outbreak and instead found out via WhatsApp groups.

Yesterday, checks by TMR at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) and Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre PPVs found long lines of workers queuing to get vaccinated under the Public-Private Partnership Covid-19 Industry Immunisation Programme.

At KLCC, the winding queue of mostly foreign workers was seen to go all the way to Persiaran KLCC.