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Prioritise medical students for Covid-19 vaccination

03 May 2021 / 13:04 H.

THE Education Ministry (MOE) has been very caring to the students from tertiary institutions, by allowing them to return to their hometowns for Hari Raya amidst inter-state travel ban. We hope this will not result in another spike in Covid-19 cases.

On the other hand, I wonder if the MOE has thought of the medical students, especially those in their clinical years who participate in ward duties and come into direct contact with patients alongside physicians on a daily basis.

This is a concern by both the physicians in charge of students in the wards and their parents.

The medical students are the only ones who are not vaccinated among the frontliners in clinical settings.

They are at high risk of getting infected from the patients or transmitting Covid-19 to the patients.

From a brief survey by the Society of Malaysian Medical Association Medical Students on March 25, only University of Malaya (UM) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) have vaccinated or started to vaccinate their medical students.

The other public and private medical schools/universities only advised their students to register with MySejahtera and wait for their turn.

Based on the criteria set by the Health Ministry, these medical students will be the last to be vaccinated (Phase 3). Under the current Covid-19 situation, these students are in dire need of vaccination.

Medical students should be regarded as part of a medical team: they are performing history taking, physical examinations and assisting in procedures in the clinics and wards, which form part of their education.

Medical schools/faculties from the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines have included their medical students in the vaccination plan along with frontliners.

Non-vaccinated medical students who are performing bedside learning in the wards are at high risk of contracting and passing on the virus to the already vulnerable patients.

They may be living with the constant fear and anxiety of contracting Covid-19.

Vaccination among medical students should be prioritised to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19.

These students should at least be included in Phase 2 of the national immunisation programme.

MOE should liaise with the Health Ministry to provide vaccines to these students as soon as possible at the hospitals they are currently attached for clinical training.

Medical students should not be the source of transmission to the vulnerable patients that they come into contact during their clinical training.

The safety of medical students should be looked after to safeguard the future of our healthcare system.

Dr Moy Foong Ming works at the department of social and preventive medicine, faculty of medicine, University Malaya. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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