Media Statement by YB Kelvin Yii:
The Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) must release specific data especially on a district and sub-district level on the amount of people registered for Covid-19 vaccination to determine which target groups we must intensify efforts to educate or even incentivise to register especially as we are approaching the programme’s second phase that will start on April 19.
I read with concern on low registrations especially among those targeted for Phase 2 including those with disabilities (OKU), when they are the ones supposed to be the main priority for protection as they are of higher risk to develop severe symptoms or even face death in the event of contracting Covid-19.
Based on statement by the Minister YB Khairy Jamaluddin, only about two million elderly people and those with chronic conditions have registered for Covid-19 vaccination under the programme’s second phase.
That is only 22 per cent of the government’s target of vaccinating nine million in Phase Two of the national Covid-19 inoculation drive that targets those who are particularly vulnerable to developing severe disease or dying from Covid-19.
This appears to be a multi-faceted problem that does not only involve senior citizens’ unfamiliarity with the MySejahtera app, but also an apparent reluctance among the elderly to get vaccinated.
That is why data especially on a district and sub-district level, including their geographical locations must be released so that a comprehensive intervention can be done by the whole of society to further encourage or incentivise more to sign up for vaccination. This can also activate the elected representatives in the area, NGOs, civil societies and even the private sector to help remove any obstacle for registration that the people may have.
The government should be looking into taking more proactive steps to reach out to these vulnerable population including tapping into existing patient database both in the public and private sector and approaching them directly for registration. In the UK, the General Practitioners (GPs) actually writes invitation letters to patients under the database and help them with the registration.
The government can’t just rely on registrations and must go to people directly, instead of waiting for people to turn up. By doing so they can help build trust by understanding the concerns and provide appropriate, transparent and accessible information, including empirical data on vaccine effectiveness in population, on adverse effects of Covid-19 in different population groups, and on the relative health risks from contracting Covid-19 versus receiving the vaccine.
On top of that, the government should come up with creative policies to incentivise more registrations and promote the benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine in order to allay some of the concerns. Maybe the government can look at examples for other countries including Israel, which is arguably furthest ahead in terms of vaccination.
In Israel, they have put forth a “Green Pass” proposal to incentivise vaccination uptake in the country which allows access to social, cultural, and sports events as well as gyms, hotels and others for individuals with immunity. This pass will also give exemption from quarantine after returning from international travels or even close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case.
However, such proposal does have it flaws especially if we do not make it fully accessible to all segments of population, then it will defeat its purpose and likely lead to discrimination and abuse.
That is why, the government must make sure that all barriers to vaccination must be removed for individuals who want to receive the vaccine, including obstacles related to access, logistics and health literacy, as well as provisions of reliable information to help people make an informed choice.
All these policies must be properly studied taking into local context and feasibility of implementation. However, the government must be proactive in reaching out and finding ways to incentivise people to sign up especially those in the vulnerable groups. All these are so important especially if we intend to reach the target of 70-80% herd immunity.
Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen
MP Bandar Kuching