We can hit herd immunity by December, says Adham

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has ordered enough vaccines to cover 109% of its population who qualify for inoculation, with the aim of achieving herd immunity against Covid-19 by December, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba (pic).

With steady and fast deliveries of all three approved vaccines – from Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and AstraZeneca – starting this month, the nation would be able to inoculate 80% of its population by December, he added.

Dr Adham said that in June and July, the vaccine supply is expected to increase with more deliveries and thus the government has made preparations to speed up the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.

Among the measures being taken are adding more vaccine dispensing centres (PPVs) nationwide and introducing new types of PPV such as mega centres, drive-throughs and mobile vaccination units.

These different types of PPV will either be overseen by the Health Ministry, the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, private healthcare facilities, or bodies like the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF).

“Since the programme started this year, 3.2 million doses have been dispensed.

“We are currently in the second phase of the national vaccination programme, during which we are vaccinating the elderly and those with comorbidities, with phase three expected to start at the end of June involving those who registered in January, February and March.

“Our main issue now is the human resource capacity to oversee the vaccination programme flow at each PPV in the country, from the registration process to observation after receiving vaccination, and crowd control.

“When all of that is in place, we will be able to ramp up our vaccine drive and with the continuous supply of all three vaccines, we will be able to reach our target.

“We have ordered vaccines enough for 109% of the population who are eligible for vaccination, as a standby. This was done after calculating the number of people above 18 years old and those suitable to receive the vaccination.

“If we can get the vaccines delivered before December, we can achieve herd immunity, ” he said.

On criticism that private general practitioners (GPs) are being held back by red tape from participating in the national vaccination programme, such as having to undergo training, Dr Adham, who himself is a GP, said that this is necessary.

According to reports, only 2,467 GPs have signed up to join the programme, of which 1,665 had already undergone training.

Dr Adham said the government very much needed the help of GPs to make the vaccination programme a success, but added that they must still be trained to understand the flowchart of the programme.

“We just want to train them on the flowchart and ensure the programme runs smoothly as there are many aspects to consider, such as clinical errors, risks and legal matters.

“For example, we have to teach them the guidelines on how to store vaccines such as the one by Pfizer-BioNTech, which needs to be kept extremely cold, and what to do with spoilt vaccines as well as procedures such as the observation period after vaccination and who to call in case of an emergency.

“I do need their help but they also must be briefed on the flowchart so we can minimise such issues, ” he added.

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