Experts: Fear leads to overcrowding at PPV centres

KUALA LUMPUR: The high number of people turning up at vaccine dispensing centres (PPV) to “try their luck” boils down to a fear of missing out on the vaccination amid their anxiety over the rising number of Covid-19 cases, say public health experts.

“This is real in many places, ” said Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar(pic), referring to the large crowds at the four centres in the Klang Valley.

He also spoke about a sense of distrust in authorities among some people.

For example, he said that these people tend to listen to rumours and would thus bank on any window of opportunity, “even the smallest one”.

“Currently, the rumour is that about 20% to 30% of people would default on their appointment. And the people, being not trusting, can’t wait for their name to be called although they have registered and are on the waiting list.

“I was on the waiting list and I saw people come and cry when they couldn’t get it while waiting at the centre, ” he said, adding that the authority has to do something to address this trust issue.

Universiti Malaya professor of occupational and public health Prof Dr Victor Hoe said it was an act of desperation stemming from the fear of contracting Covid-19.

“Many who have registered for the vaccine have not received any response and the information on those who are eligible is also not clear.

“People are feeling helpless and it’s sad that the situation has evolved to this stage, ” he said.

Prof Hoe said the government should review how it communicates with the public on the latest Covid-19 situation and vaccination status, such as weekly updates at the district level and the upcoming plan.

He also called on elected representatives to stop politicking and start working for their constituents as a united front to “reduce the people’s anxiety and fear and discourage them from flocking to the vaccine centres.

“People should not flock to the vaccine centres. Instead, contact your state representatives and get the latest information on the vaccine rollout in your area, ” he added.

Universiti Malaya professor of epidemiology and public health Prof Dr Sanjay Rampal said Malaysians must have faith that the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme will benefit all.

“The system prioritises those at higher risk, but every adult Malaysian will have the opportunity to receive the vaccine. We have to trust the system and wait for our turn.

“It is advisable not to crowd outside these centres as the system would contact and verify the attendance of all those at the vaccine centres, ” he said.

Social activist Kuan Chee Heng, who runs a charity ambulance service, also discouraged people from converging at these centres to “try their luck” to get vaccinated earlier.

“There are people dying of the virus and we must be vigilant. It is improper to converge at the vaccine centres because every dose is being accounted for.

“They will disturb the flow of the vaccination process and may even create a cluster. Let’s not make things worse, ” said Kuan, The Star’s Golden Hearts award winner better known as Uncle Potato.

He also noted that Malaysians must be patient in “fighting a war we can win by sitting down”.

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