Fast-track plan to vaccinate Orang Asli

Halimah (right) talking to one of the Kanag villagers at a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Kampung Selangi.

JOHOR Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) wants to complete the Covid-19 immunisation programme for Orang Asli community in the state by October.

Its director Faisal Long said the department would work closely with the district offices and district health offices beginning July to have the indigenous people inoculated.

He said Jakoa would also rope in Southern Volunteers members to assist the department to register the Orang Asli for the programme.

“Our target to achieve full vaccination for the community also depends largely on the availability of the Covid-19 vaccines,’’ said Faisal.

To date, he added, 309 Orang Asli from Batu Pahat, Kota Tinggi, Mersing, Muar and Pontian had received the first dose of the vaccine.

About 16,700 Orang Asli comprising the Jakun, Orang Kuala, Orang Seletar, Temuan and Kanaq ethnic groups live in 60 villages in Johor.

Faisal said Kluang district had the highest number of Orang Asli with 12 villages, followed by Mersing and Segamat with nine villages respectively.

Others are Johor Baru and Pasir Gudang (eight each), Batu Pahat (seven), Kota Tinggi and Muar (five each), Tangkak (three) and Pontian with two.

“The Orang Asli community is adopting the wait-and-see attitude when it comes to Covid-19 vaccination,’’ said Faisal.

“They are a close-knit community and will only come forward to be vaccinated if they witness others not experiencing side effects from the vaccine.”

Johor Jakoa, he said, would appoint as spokespersons tok batin (village head), Orang Asli teachers, lecturers and officers from the department who had been vaccinated, to convince the villagers to get vaccinated.

He said 60 Kanag villagers from Kampung Selangi in Mawai, Kota Tinggi, were supposed to get their first jab on June 25, but only four turned up while others hid in the jungle.

“But when they saw Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique (National Unity Minister who is also Tenggara MP), in the village, we managed to vaccinate 18 people,’’ said Faisal.

He said similarly at Kampung Sentosa in Lenga, Muar, 50 of the total 100 villagers there, who were at first not willing to be vaccinated, changed their mind after seeing former Johor mentri besar and Bukit Kepong assemblyman Datuk Dr Sahruddin Jamal show up.

Faisal also said Johor Jakoa had distributed food baskets to 4,861 households in the 60 Orang Asli villages in the state this year.

The food basket comprised 20kg of rice, 2kg of sugar, 2kg of flour, canned sardines, tea, vermicelli and soy sauce.

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