Prioritise Media In The Vaccination Programme

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Media Statement by YB Kelvin Yii:

Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) must give specific updates on the progress of Phase 1 of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NCIP) in Sarawak on who are medical and non-medical front liners that has received the vaccine as we approach Phase 2 reportedly to start as early as this week.

This includes updates for vaccination for the media and journalist in Sarawak which at beginning SDMC said were supposed to be included in Phase 1 of the vaccination programme, but so far only 13 media personnel were vaccinated. It is disappointing that they did not prioritise the rest of the media even after taking account their risk they face and even risk to transmit as they are active in the community.

The media play an important role in the dissemination of information from the government to the public. In times of crisis, journalists represent an even more critical lifeline to their communities. Currently the media also must attend functions and press conferences physically thus also increasing the risk of possible infection. That is why it is crucial for the media – especially those in the field – to be among the first few inoculated against Covid-19

What is even more worrying is that almost 90% of all cases in Sarawak are asymptomatic carriers thus further increasing risk of local transmission especially among those that are actively in the community, including media personnel.

While under the federal guidelines, media are not in Phase 1, but SDMC should if they claim to have the autonomy and authority to decide, include them urgently in view of the increasing cases here in Sarawak, especially asymptomatic cases.

As we are approaching Phase 2 and the government has mentioned that they will also prioritise certain “economic front liners” I urge that the media is prioritised as well as we roll out Phase 2 of the NCIP

Based on the nature of their job, they fulfil the 2 main criteria of prioritisation which is how likely a person could spread the virus or whether the individual was likely to get the disease. In view of that they are considered high risk of becoming infected and transmitting SARS-CoV-2 as they are actively in the community, On top of that extra consideration should be taken into based on the importance of their job to disseminate information which is pivotal for a successful management of public health crisis.

That is why I urge SDMC to take the lead even if it is contrary to federal guidelines especially when it claims to have the autonomy and authority in view of the increasing cases in Sarawak and high asymptomatic carriers. They should prioritise the essential role played by journalists — a role that cannot be performed without physically engaging in the communities they serve, regardless of the risk.

In mean time, the State Government should look into reducing public events and physical press conferences until all those involved are properly protected and the numbers in the State are properly controlled.

Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen
MP Bandar Kuching