Closure of PPVs may delay herd immunity, health experts say

MMI chief opines that reducing accessibility to vaccination seems unwise with the new variant running rampant, the increasing infectivity rate and the reopening of businesses


THE government’s decision to close vaccination centres (PPVs) in the Klang Valley is expected to slow down the country’s herd immunity target, which is set by the end of October.

Malaysian Medics International (MMI) chairman Dr Ong Siu Ching said Malaysia will ultimately reach its goal of herd immunity, but at a much slower rate.

She opined that with the new variant running rampant, the increasing infectivity rate and the reopening of businesses, reducing accessibility to vaccination now seems unwise.

“We are unsure of the motive behind the closure of PPVs. There have been reports and videos on the violation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) at PPVs which accept walk-ins where social distancing is not kept, causing an increased risk of the formation of new clusters.

“However, we should definitely be aiming to vaccinate as many people as possible in the shortest possible time to confer some protection to the majority of our population.

“Ending the participation of private general practitioners (GPs) and clinics in vaccination centres, limiting the vaccination of foreigners and stopping walk-ins at PPVs are most certainly not ways to achieve herd immunity,” she told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in a phone interview.

Dr Ong added that by ending the participation of private GPs and clinics in vaccination centres, the accessibility to vaccination will be markedly reduced.

She noted that even though some places have reportedly achieved a high vaccination rate, the numbers in MySejahtera may not reflect the true vaccination rate.

Additionally, Dr Ong emphasised that the government’s intention to track vaccination rates via the MySejahtera app is impractical, as some foreigners do not have access to mobile devices and therefore, will not be able to register for the vaccine.

She noted that as of now, most of the clusters that emerged are among foreign workers working in factories, therefore the government has to target them for vaccination to curb the Covid-19 situation effectively.

“We cannot speak for the government as to why they have made such a decision, but we do not think that this will improve anything right now.

“It is not uncommon to come across people in the country who have registered months ago for a vaccination appointment through MySejahtera and still have not gotten their appointments,” she said.

Dr Ong added that the walk-ins at PPVs should still be ongoing with more stringent SOPs in place.

She stressed that limiting vaccination to only foreigners who register on the MySejahtera app may expose the general public to a higher risk as the country is unable to establish the intended herd immunity.

Malaysian Medical Association president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy condemned the halting of GPs’ participation in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, saying that the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) had not provided any rationale for it or whether they are giving privately procured vaccinations.

“Is it not the goal to vaccinate as many people as possible and achieve herd immunity in the quickest time possible?

“Also, how is it even possible that 107.7% of adults in the Klang Valley have received their first dose? There are still many who have not even registered for the vaccine and this includes the high undocumented migrant population,” he said in a statement.

CITF in response last week had said that it would consider recruiting the private GPs based on needs’ basis.

“Announcements on the implementation of these and other issues will be made from time to time when there is more concrete planning based on data, needs, as well as consensus decisions by all parties on new or current policies,” it said.

The decision to close the PPVs and terminate the GPs’ service for vaccination is made in line with the high percentage of vaccination for the adult population in the Klang Valley.

Meanwhile, Osel Group chief clinical and innovative scientist Dr Kris See described the government’s decision to shut PPVs as “premature” and an “oversight”.

He said this is at a time when the government should adopt a whole-of-society approach and public-private-people partnership.

“Although herd immunity might not be the target that we should be working towards, vaccination has proven and is the best direct way for our country to get back to some degree of normalcy.

“With the current progression of Covid-19 virus and the vaccination rate in the country, many have argued that the herd immunity concept might not be achievable,” he told TMR.

Therefore, he urged the government to stick with the Ops Surge Capacity initiative, which calls for rapid and rampant opening of PPVs, as well as mass vaccination.

“We still see many foreign workers and even some of our local residents who are not vaccinated.

“So, the implementation of PPVs should be extended till the community, including foreign workers, teenagers or even children are vaccinated before announcing closure,” he said.

It was reported that CITF had previously given a 48-hour notice to stop vaccination appointments at 741 private clinics, several private hospitals and ambulatory care centres in Selangor.

Health DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah revealed that the decision to stop vaccinations at private clinics had been made against his advice and it was contrary to his proposal to increase the participation of GPs.