Ramp up vaccination efforts for Orang Asli


IN THE past month, we have seen the Malaysian government increasing its vaccination programme. This includes increasing vaccination of Orang Asli communities. The government has opened more vaccination centres (PPVs) and worked with NGOs to increase vaccination throughout Malaysia.

The problem faced by Orang Asli communities is that there is lack of awareness and trust in the vaccination. More recently, there has been more awareness and more people now realise the urgency in taking the vaccine.

Another problem is the lack of technological advances to even help register for the vaccine within rural Orang Asli communities.

To tackle this problem, the government and NGOs have been going into the Orang Asli housing areas and helping them register. Even where they are able to register, some within these communities do not have an identification card, which makes the process of registering for the vaccine that much harder.

The reason why Orang Asli need to be vaccinated rapidly is because they have suffered an income loss from not being able to go to the city and sell produce and ensuring herd immunity within the community as a whole.

The government has started some programmes beyond the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NCIP) Outreach programme Mobilisasi Vaksin Komuniti (Movak) has started going into the rural areas and helping Orang Asli get vaccinated. This means that through this effort, they are able to vaccinate the Orang Asli villagers within their villages itself which cuts down the burden of transportation on the community. This programme is supported by the NCIP. Other efforts include door-to-door Covid-19 vaccination programme by medical NGOs aided by the Social Welfare Department and the Health Ministry. Medical NGOs were allowed to have integrated PPVs with the NCIP to increase vaccination capacity, including Orang Asli.

In Negri Sembilan, as of July 17, 23% of the Orang Asli have been vaccinated. And as of July 17, 15,000 Orang Asli have been vaccinated in Peninsular Malaysia. But one has to note that there is an estimated 210,000 Orang Asli in the peninsula. As such, that is only 7.1 % of the Orang Asli population being vaccinated but even that data is not updated daily. Comparing that to the overall vaccination rate of Malaysia, as of July 30, 40% of the population at least have received one dose. This shows how far behind the efforts are for Orang Asli vaccinations in comparison to the overall population.

Vaccination efforts for Orang Asli should be ramped up. This means allowing more mobilised PPVs into rural areas in order for all to be vaccinated. Beyond that, the government should set up a committee specially focusing on the vaccination of Orang Asli since the vaccination percentage among them is so low.

The committee can then identify the communities and promptly go and register and vaccinate them as soon as possible. The committee should also release the data of Orang Asli vaccination on a daily basis. This also means setting a proper mechanism of communication for the Orang Asli communities seeing as they might not be technologically advanced and located deep in the remote areas.

As a whole, vaccination within Malaysia has increased very rapidly and is now one of the fastest countries to vaccinate the population with an average of 400,000 vaccinations per day. But more resources need to be poured into ramping up vaccinations for the Orang Asli community. This is crucial since, if Malaysia starts loosening up lockdowns, the Orang Asli community will be at risk, and this will defeat the aim of attaining herd immunity.

Sevan Doraisamy is Suara Rakyat Malaysia executive director.

The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.