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‘Prioritise private doctors too’

General practitioners, specialists should also be vaccinated in Phase One of immunisation programme, says MMA

03 Mar 2021 / 09:02 H.

PETALING JAYA: General practitioners (GP) and specialists should be among those to be vaccinated first, given the high risk of Covid-19 infection they face.

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) pointed out that just like health workers in the public sector, they are also among the first to be in close contact with patients.

Its president Datuk Dr M. Subramaniam said they are usually the first point of care for patients with symptoms of severe acute respiratory illness and influenza-like illnesses.

“These are the most common symptoms in patients with Covid-19,” he said.

“A number of GP and their staff have already been infected through exposure to patients with these symptoms, who were later diagnosed with Covid-19.”

He was responding to a decision by the government to only include GP, dentists and other private healthcare personnel in the second phase of the ongoing immunisation exercise, together with police, defence and security personnel, teachers and staff in other essential services.

Subramaniam said some private clinics have had to close for up to 14 days because the doctors and their staff were under quarantine.

He pointed out that GP are also involved in Covid-19 screening for the masses and this puts them at high risk of being infected.

“By putting them in Category Two of the National Immunisation Programme, we are showing that we do not recognise them as an integral part of the mainstream healthcare system,” he said.

“This will only delay efforts to bring the pandemic under control.”

Subramaniam said dentists and their staff are equally vulnerable, given that their patients will have to remove their masks for their teeth to be examined, thus exposing the dentist or nurse to the Covid-19 virus if the patient has already been infected.

“We hope that the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply will review its categorisation of frontliners and list all healthcare workers directly exposed to the risk of infection under Category One,” he said.

“This would be in line with the World Health Organisation guidelines.”

However, Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive officer Azrul Mohd Khalib said it was acceptable for GP and other private healthcare personnel to remain in Category Two.

“Those in Category Two will also be vaccinated in Phase One of the exercise, that means they will receive their vaccination by April,” he told theSun.

“This also places them at a higher level of prioritisation compared with the general population.

“This is not unreasonable, considering that a large number of essential health workers such as hospital sanitation staff who are equally at risk,” he added.

Azrul said GP could also join the immunisation exercise to ease the burden on the public health system.

“They should be seen as an extension of the public vaccination programme although they are in the private sector,” he added.

He said private clinics have a good reach and penetration into communities where access to government health clinics or hospitals is limited.

“Engaging GP in the immunisation exercise is a logical step and a cost-effective way to support the government’s programme.

“The government cannot and should not shoulder the huge task of vaccinating the entire population.”

Expressing the same sentiment, Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh appealed to the government to allow private hospitals to procure the vaccine to join the immunisation programme.

He said such a move would be able to help the country achieve herd immunity earlier.

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