Covid-19: 'Jab first, register later' method only for rural folks, but health experts urge for nationwide expansion

PETALING JAYA: The "jab first, register later” approach whereby people can walk into Covid-19 vaccine dispensing centres (PPV) for a jab before even registering is only for rural dwellers, says the Health Ministry.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said the walk-in vaccination service is special for those living in the interior areas, who do not use smartphones or the MySejahtera app.

"There are four normal ways for the public to register for vaccination - MySejahtera, the immunisation programme website, through the hotline or by registering at the clinic or hospital.

“The walk-in method is the fifth way to register for vaccination and this is what we use for those living in remote areas in the country.

"The usual announcement practices made by the government also do not easily reach folks living in these rural areas," he said when contacted.

He said Internet access and phone lines are unreliable in Malaysia’s rural areas, whereby villages can be far away from clinics, hospitals or community halls functioning as PPVs, making it difficult for folks in these parts to register for inoculation.

In Sarawak, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg had said on Monday (June 7) that rural folk in the state would be given the Covid-19 jab if they turn up at vaccination centres without having registered first.

While lauding the walk-in method for rural folk, health experts suggested the same service be extended to senior citizens in urban areas also, as they too, struggle with smartphone and Internet use.

Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah said the “inject first, register later” policy is more practical and easier for everybody, pointing out that Singapore has already started this method.

Dr Raj Kumar shared that his clinic, which has just been appointed as a PPV for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, received many calls from the public, especially seniors, expressing their interest to walk in and get their vaccine.

However, private healthcare facilities under the programme function just like any other PPV, and they do not have the power to provide vaccine choice or appointment slots at their own discretion.

People must still register through MySejahtera and wait to receive their appointment via the app.

“When I explain to them that they cannot walk-in and must still wait for an appointment via MySejahtera, immediately they lose their excitement and say that they would rather just wait for when they can walk-in and get the jab,” he said.

Dr Raj Kumar added that many elderly folks have a hard time using the app, as many still grapple with smartphone usage and get frustrated about navigating the MySejahtera app.

“Walk-in is more practical for the elderly,” he said.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said the walk-in policy and mobile vaccination efforts were a smart way to get those in the interior areas to get inoculated, as they live far away from PPVs.

He also suggested that the walk-in policy be extended nationwide, adding that they could open up this walk-in vaccination service especially for senior citizens.

“Each PPV could set aside a number of vaccines for the estimated turnouts.

“Like in Singapore, they prioritise seniors above 60 years old, and this group can just walk into any PPV to get their jab,” he said.

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