Press Statement By Julian Tan:

The government urged to get those 18 and below registered now for vaccination. In the US, the age requirement for Pfizer vaccine is 16. In the most recent development, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expected to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents ages 12-15  as early as next week. Other vaccines expected to follow suit.  

In Malaysia, 30% of our population is below 18 years old. Experts estimate that it is prudent to have at least 80% of the population vaccinated to induce herd immunity against COVID-19. Only then we can keep vulnerable groups who cannot get vaccinated due to existing health conditions safe and protected from COVID19. Thus, to achieve the 80%, we need to include those 18 years old and below.

As of mid of April, only slightly 2% of total Malaysians have received at least one dose as compared to our neighbour Singapore, more than 23% of the population have received at least one dose. In the US (40%), UK (49%), Canada (25%) and the European Union (19%).

The low figure in Malaysia is due to the non-availability of vaccines. Our current supply of vaccines remains well below demand, slowing vaccination. Malaysia’s delays in securing the vaccines are the reason for these shortages. Malaysia only signed its first agreement to secure the vaccines back in Nov 2020. The conditional approval on the first vaccine comes only in January 2021, after much public outcry.  The earliest are the UK and US, who signed their agreements to purchase the vaccines back in May 2020, Israel (June), and Japan (July). By the end of September, Europe, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. 

To put the past behind us, we now face the second challenge: to beat vaccine hesitancy. With the current total registration, the number of vaccines available will steadily climb and surpass that 9.05million currently registered for vaccination. We need to get at least 26.2 million registered, and only with those age 18 and below can we achieve the 80% mark. 

To beat COVID-19, we need to be prudent and be ahead of the game. Thus we should start registration now for those that are below 18. The decision needs to be swift and not wait till the last minute.

As of now, the government is simply not doing enough to overcome vaccine hesitancy. On the ground, people are talking about which type of vaccine is the best. Often with no scientific backing. The government needs to send a strong message the urgency of getting as many as possible to be vaccinated in the shortest possible time to protect vulnerable populations and allow our economy to reopen safely as soon as possible.  The more we drag, the more people are going to suffer in health and economically.

We need to get the message across; the best vaccine is the first one that we can get hold of NOW. The one that can protect us so as not to ends up in the hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU). It is not how effective the vaccines protect us from being infected by the virus, but how effectively each vaccine protects us against severe disease. COVID-19 does not discriminate, neither should our response, if we were to succeed in curbing the spread of the viruses.  

Julian Tan 
Special Assistant to YB Chong Chieng Jen