Frontliners and those vulnerable should be prioritised for vaccination

If all goes as planned, and the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines arrives on time, the Ministry of Health will roll out the shots by the end of this month.

As all Malaysians, particularly the vulnerable groups, are looking forward anxiously for the roll out to begin, it has to be emphasised here the importance for the whole process to be carried out in a transparent and efficient manner.

It has been reported that the government has identified 600 vaccination sites in the country where 75,000 people will be immunised a day from March.

According to the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Khairy Jamaluddin, this is equivalent to 12,500 people per hour in a six-hour day.

That is a reasonable and achievable target, provided all the ancillary resources and support systems are available and in place.

It is right that frontline workers and others in the high risk category, including the elderly, are given priority  during the first quarter of the year.  It is important also that within the elderly group, additional attention should be given to those in private old folks homes.

The folks at these homes are at a higher risk of infections as is evidenced by the existence of some clusters in care homes with increased deaths.

After all, there are only 30,000 of them in old folks homes.  This is a relatively small number and can easily be accommodated in the early stages of the first phase of vaccination.

In addition to prioritising this vulnerable group, it is hoped that the Government will also look into the question of putting in place an indemnity system. Such a system will further enhance public confidence in the safety of the vaccine which is a necessary step to assuage those who have been influenced by negative reports in social media.

Such a system could take the form of a Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme, the mere existence of which will help boost public confidence.

It is also important to ensure transparency in the procurement of the drugs which must also be evidence-based.

And to ensure that the maximum benefit accrues from the immunisation process, there must be systems put in place to ensure transparency and the avoidance of wastage.

This is where the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) has a crucial role to play.  It must be independent and free to make the best decisions for the country and the people.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye
Alliance for Safe Community

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