ALTHOUGH it is a good sign more than one million people registered their interest voluntarily on May 26, the second phase of the AstraZeneca vaccination is only scheduled between June 7 and July 27. This is only applicable for those who have taken the first dose of the vaccine.

When I entered the AstraZeneca registration webpage via https://www.vaksincovid.gov.my/, there were not many vaccination centres (PPV) to choose from – only two PPV were available in Kuala Lumpur.

After anticipating for my appointment date and time via MySejahtera for two days, I finally received confirmation on May 28. However, I could only be vaccinated in two months (July 27).

Although the current administration has an ambitious target of administering 150,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine per day, by setting up more mega PPV, the large crowds at four PPV in the Klang Valley in mid-May were of much concern to the public.

After Malaysia recorded 4,113 new Covid-19 cases on May 14, some people who were not registered for the AstraZeneca vaccine “tried their luck” by walking in at the World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur the next day (May 15).

To make matters worse, some who managed to secure vaccination appointment during the first AstraZeneca opt-in registration on May 2 arrived earlier than their scheduled time. Instead of arriving half an hour before their vaccination appointment time, there was a significant number of people who were there hours earlier, which resulted in overcrowding.

Acknowledging the overcrowded situation in some PPV, former minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz recommended the use of multi-purpose halls as a convenience for district health officers to monitor the vaccination process in particular districts. Residents also do not have to cross borders to receive vaccinations.

As of May 30, the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NCIP) Coordinating Minister Khairy Jamaluddin stated that three more mega PPV would be placed in Selangor and two more in Kuala Lumpur. The three additional mega PPV in Selangor are The Mines, Puncak Alam UiTM and Setia City Convention Centre. While, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and Bukit Jalil National Stadium are the other two mega PPV in Kuala Lumpur.

Despite Khairy’s commitment in arranging small PPV, drive-through PPV and mobile PPV as part of speeding up the Covid-19 vaccination efforts, the NCIP handbook indicated a relatively low number of PPV allocated in states such as Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak.

To address the insufficient PPV issue, the current administration could consider renting empty community halls, universities, hotels and other appropriate facilities in different zones of each constituency. This would help respective owners to weather the health crisis while ensuring standard operating procedures are observed at all times.

Although the Federal Territories Ministry has aimed to provide 40 mobile trucks to conduct “mobile truck” vaccination, it is time for the government to set up more mobile clinics outside the Federal Territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan). This would provide convenience for residents in receiving vaccinations.

As more than a third of the population in East Malaysia continue to live beyond 5km from any kind of health facility, there is a crucial need to enhance coordination between the federal government and state governments. So, vaccines can be distributed according to the people’s needs and logistical requirements.

With the help from the federal government and Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Special Committee, both the Sabah and Sarawak state governments can provide flying doctor services to remote areas in both these states. It would shorten the delivery times of vaccines and allow rural citizens in both states to be inoculated as soon as possible.

It is a good move for the government to have 500 general practitioner clinics administering Covid-19 vaccines from June 15, and 1,000 private clinics designated as PPV by June 30.

However, only 184 out of the 2,500 general practitioners (GP) have begun administering the vaccines, according to Datuk
Dr Subramaniam Muniandy, president of the Malaysian Medical Association.

This is a disappointment as more GP should come forward to assist the government in the inoculation drive to achieve herd immunity faster, now that the government has designated private clinics as PPV.

Besides medical, nursing and pharmacy students, vaccine corps could be formed by community grassroots, comprising retired or unemployed clinicians. They could deliver the shots, monitor individuals who have just been vaccinated or given the second dose.

For instance, students in the vaccine corps could administer vaccines in low-cost flats and shelters for the homeless and victims of domestic violence. They should be provided transport to vaccination sites or take doses directly to homebound elders who may have difficulty travelling from one place to another.

By mobilising vaccine corps on a large scale, the current administration could accelerate the nationwide roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines, besides ensuring doses are distributed equitably to every citizen.

As the government plans to station 15,000 officers in 950 vaccination centres throughout the country, some can be allocated to the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, to provide extra helping hand in the vaccination process for the benefit of residents in less-developed states.

The government can also consider Indonesia’s approach – collaborating with private companies such as Grab to provide more drive-through PPV across Malaysia.

To ensure successful implementation, a whole-of-society effort is required, going beyond the auspices of the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, Health Ministry and the National Security Council.

This would involve different stakeholders such as non-governmental organisations, corporations, embassies, international organisations, schools, universities and healthcare providers. By marking and including all semi-urban, rural and interior areas onto the map, Village Community Development Councils, Community Development Officers and resident committees can monitor the vaccination process thoroughly in their respective communities.

In a nutshell, now is the time for the government to provide multiple types of PPV across the country, ensuring Malaysia inoculates at least 80% of the population by year-end.

Amanda Yeo is research analyst at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com