PETALING JAYA: The country needs to marshall all resources in order to ramp up the mass Covid-19 inoculation programme, health experts say.
To achieve herd immunity by December, Malaysian Pharmacists Society president Amrahi Buang estimates that the country has to conduct 250,000 vaccinations daily for seven days till the end of the year, provided that there is a constant supply of vaccines in the country.
“Administering the vaccines must be done every day. Not one day can be left out as we also have to administer two doses to people.
“If there is no change to what we are currently doing, most likely we would not be achieving herd immunity by December. I stand to be corrected on what will happen in June and July, ” he said.
To speed up the vaccination process, Amrahi said the vaccines should be brought to the people, especially to those who want them.
“It is very sad to see people having vaccine appointments but not turning up for it. With the uncertainties in vaccine supplies, we can’t have these vaccine wastages, ” he said.
Universiti Malaya epidemiologist Prof Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang opined that there is still much to do before Malaysia is on track to achieve herd immunity by year end.
“Even if we dispense 150,000 vaccine jabs a day, it will take us more than 330 vaccination days to vaccinate 25 million people, ” he said.
Dr Awang Bulgiba, who is also the head of the Independent Covid-19 Vaccination Advisory Committee, added that all possible resources need to be marshalled to vaccinate people.
“We should not overlook the current public health clinic setup. There are more than 1,100 public health clinics nationwide.
“Assuming we reorganise the current workload and utilise 500 health clinics just for vaccination while the other 600 take over current responsibilities of these clinics, we can ramp up our vaccination rates.
“Let’s say there are two vaccinators in each clinic shift who administer one jab each every five minutes.
“If there are two shifts per day (each seven hours long), there will be a total of four vaccinators who can administer 336 jabs per clinic per day.
“One clinic can theoretically vaccinate 336 people every 24 hours, so a total of 500 health clinics can theoretically dispense 168,000 jabs per day, ” he said.
He added that after all those who registered for the vaccines have already gotten their jabs, mobile vaccination units can be dispatched to community centres and places of worship to set up ‘pop-up vaccination centres’.
“Registration can be done on the spot and if people are eligible, they should get their vaccinations right after registering too, ” he said.
Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah said with the current highest daily rate of vaccine dispensed being at just over 100,000 doses, herd immunity is not reachable by 2021.
He said that the 33 million population counted for the vaccination programme did not include the foreigners and illegals in the country.
“The rate needs to be hastened.
“There is too much red tape currently. Once given the responsibility, general practitioners (GPs) should be able to do the job at a faster rate.
“There is no need to retrain GPs on how to vaccinate. We have been vaccinating babies and adults for over 100 years now and we are the backbone of the country’s primary health care services, ” he said.
Dr Raj Kumar was referring to the fact that GPs who wish to be involved in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP) must undergo training by the Health Ministry first.
National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin had said mega vaccine centres were only one part of a larger strategy to distribute the Covid-19 jabs more widely.
General practitioners (GPs) are also being roped in to be included as an essential part of the vaccination exercise, by signing up with ProtectHealth for training.
About 2,500 GP clinics have signed up with ProtectHealth to date, with Khairy aiming for 1,000 GP clinics to be made vaccination centres by end June.
Mobile Covid-19 vaccination units have also been deployed to aged care homes in the country, while a programme involving mobile trucks is being piloted to administer jabs at People’s Housing Project (PPR) areas and construction sites.
In the meantime, state governments such as Selangor, Sarawak and Penang are looking to procure their own vaccine supplies, so long as they are registered with the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA).
The Selangor government had also announced that private firms can sign up for the vaccines through the SelangkahVax initiative.
State exco member Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud said that 2.5 million doses have been procured, though she did not specify what vaccine it is and when it will be rolled out.
The economic sector is also arranging to get their jabs, with private sector organisations such as Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers and the Malaysia Shopping Malls Association announcing initiatives for firms to register their interest for the vaccines.