Incentivise Covid-19 vaccines, experts say

by AZALEA AZUAR / pic by AFP

VACCINATION should be incentivised, rather than made mandatory, despite it being a responsibility of all, consultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar Singh HSS said.

Although he acknowledged that unvaccinated individuals are putting others at risk, he disagreed with steps taken in other countries such as Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, Covid-19 vaccination has been made mandatory where those working in the healthcare, education, care homes and civil services are required to take them unless they have medical conditions. Otherwise, they must be screened every two weeks and pay for their own tests.

“I understand why they want to make it compulsory for those in critical sectors, but personally I do not think we should force people,” he explained.

Besides giving incentives, Dr Amar believes that people who are apprehensive about the vaccines can be won over by providing them with good data and science.

“There are people who have legitimate fears about vaccination and I think we have not spent enough time allaying their fears,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Hence, he added, transparency is the best solution and that means making data available, including their side effects, although anti-vaccination groups would use it to their own advantage.

“By making data available, the vast majority of the public can then be educated about what this means.

“After all, so many things we do have risks and the public needs to know the size of the risk for these Covid-19 vaccines.

“If we are not transparent with the data, then we would have people believing fake information that is easily available on messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram.”

Dr Amar is also of the opinion that those working at supermarkets, food outlets and public transportation should be high on the priority list for vaccination, and hopes that airline companies would repurpose their staff as Covid-19 vaccination ambassadors.

Meanwhile, InTalent Consulting Sdn Bhd consulting director Sean Lee said taking the Covid-19 vaccination is a public responsibility.

“As far as I am concerned, Covid-19 will soon be one of the viruses that we are already taking vaccines for, like smallpox, so we must take the Covid-19 vaccine,” he said, adding that in the future, there could be vaccines for newborns.

“We have national immunisation programmes to protect the children from contracting all these illnesses, so the same goes for Covid-19,” he said.

Recently, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry proposed making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for all retail workers nationwide.

“In Malaysia, it has to cover more than what is being done in Hong Kong,” Lee said.

As of Aug 9, a total of 25.01 million doses had been administered through the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme. Of the total, 15.96 million individuals have received at least their first dose, including 9.05 million people who are fully vaccinated with two jabs.

“In terms of percentage, 48.9% of the country’s population have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, including 27.7% who have completed both doses of the vaccination,” Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said.

Lee believes that vaccinations should be administered at community clinics as well, not just in mega vaccination centres, which he said run on exorbitant expenditure.

“All we need is a good logistic system to supply these clinics, so the nearby communities can get vaccinated,” he suggested.

On movement restrictions, Lee thinks they are ineffective as Covid-19 infections are still on the rise.

“We need to open the economy, while ensuring strict enforcement of the standard operating procedures.”