Access to vaccine should be for all

22 Feb 2021 / 21:36 H.

FINALLY, the long-awaited Covid-19 vaccine will be availabe in the country. The arrival of the vaccine will give Malaysians new hope of protecting themselves from the viral infection.

As for the Covid-19 vaccine distribution, the Malaysian government has initated the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme. It will start at the end of this month, with the government targeting 80% of the country’s population or 26.5 million individuals to receive the vaccine.

The national immunisation programme will be carried out in three phases and the vaccination will be done free of cost. The first phase will involve some 500,000 health and non-health frontliners and is expected to end in April.

The second phase will involve Covid-19 high-risk groups, namely senior citizens, vulnerable individuals with comorbidities and disabled persons. This is expected to go on from April to August, involving around 9.4 million people.

The third phase of the programme will involve adults aged 18 and above, who will be given the jabs from May this year until February next year, running concurrently with the second phase.

This phase is important to develop herd immunity and then to control the pandemic which has changed our lives since it began in early 2020. Even foreigners will be able to get access to the vaccine.

In line with the vaccine distribution, the government is also planning to open up more than 600 vaccination centres across the country involving public and private health facilities, stadiums, convention centres, public halls and universities.

Covid-19 is a new virus and it is highly contagious for humans. Millions of people have been infected and more than two million have died due to it around the world.

Sadly, there is no suitable medication which can be used to deal with this virus quickly. As such, we need to put our hopes on vaccines to protect us from the disease.

Late last year, a number of vaccines were developed by a few countries and emergency authorisations were given by many governments for their use on their citizens.

As of February this year, 10 vaccines have been authorised by at least one national regulatory authority for public use. Two RNA vaccines namely the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine, a peptide vaccine EpiVacCorona, three conventional inactivated vaccines namely BBIBP-CorV, Covaxin and CoronaVac as well as four viral vector vaccines namely Sputnik V, the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine, Convidicea and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

As in Malaysia, many countries have implemented phased distribution plans that prioritise those at the highest risk of complications, such as the elderly, and those at high risk of exposure and transmission, such as healthcare workers.

Beyond doubt, it will take time to have everybody in the world to be properly vaccinated due to the size of the world population which numbers over 7.8 billion people.

In Malaysia, understandably, it will take our government some time to have more than 32 million people vaccinated. Logically speaking, our frontliners are the ones who will be at high risk of being infected as they battle to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

Ordinary people should also be given the vaccine as soon as possible as they need to carry on with their daily lives which have been severely disrupted by the pandemic since early last year.

Nobody is safe until everybody is safe. As such, the government must ensure everybody in the country is able to receive Covid-9 vaccine promptly. There cannot be any compromise on this matter.

Any shortage of the supply of the Covid-19 vaccines must be dealt with immediately by the government. It must also make sure all logistics and facilities being prepared for the immunisation programme are able to accommodate everyone in the country.

The public must able to receive the vaccine safely and comfortably and there should not be any room for carelessness or negligence. The relevant authorities must constantly monitor all the prepared logistics and facilities.

Any unnecessary disruption of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme must be immediately identified and overcome. Everyone’s cooperation is vital if the programme is to be successful.

The writer is Assoc Prof at the Faculty of Syariah and Laws, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia. Comments:


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