Mass inoculation the best way forward, say experts

Photo: Bernama

PETALING JAYA: Since the number of Covid-19 infections remains high, mass vaccination is the only way towards a speedier recovery for the nation, say health experts.

Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh said the country’s current vaccination rate was commendable.

“The government had earlier planned to vaccinate 400,000 people a day and it looks like we are getting closer to that target.

“This is a good move and it shows that we should achieve herd immunity much earlier,” he said when contacted yesterday.

He added that the current restrictions under Phase One of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) and the standard operating procedures (SOPs) had not stemmed the number of daily cases and may have to be reviewed.

“(It’s) not working and the only remedy is to carry out the vaccination programme to bring down the number of cases,” he said.

Dr Kuljit also said the only “silver lining” of the current controls was that they had prevented daily infection numbers from going as high as five digits.

He suggested that the focus be placed on vaccinating the groups of people who were getting infected, such as those in factories or sectors that required physical meetings to run their business.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia health expert Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh said it was good that the nation was on track to inoculate 80% of its population and achieve herd immunity by the year’s end.

She added that mass vaccination was badly needed for states that were still stuck in Phase One of the NRP, particularly Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

However, she expressed concern that the target to achieve herd immunity by the end of this year may not be attainable due to vaccine supply issues.

“If we can (achieve it), then kudos to the government for being able to provide and attain enough vaccines for our population,” she said.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced yesterday that the nation has successfully achieved a vaccination rate of more than 300,000 doses a day.

Universiti Malaya virologist Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar described the announcement as “awesomely good news”.

“The keys are the ability to sustain the momentum and targeting the right group,” he said.

However, he noted that hitting the target of 10% of the population vaccinated – one of the three threshold indicators under the NRP – would be of no use if those aged below 50 were still left vulnerable.

“We should target to achieve 30% of the population and 50% of that being those above 50 years old, where the risk of contracting severe infections is high,” he said.

Prof Sazaly also said the government should provide daily statistics on the vaccination rate of different age groups for it to be meaningful.

Asked about the continued high number of daily cases, he said the figures would remain high as long as mass testing was carried out.

“The 4,000 positive daily cases is a meaningless target – stop testing and cases will be zero. They should peg the threshold to weekly numbers in intensive care units, those on ventilators and deaths,” he said.

Under the NRP, cases must dip below 4,000 cases a day for seven consecutive days to move from Phase One to Phase Two.

The other criteria are that 10% of the population is vaccinated and that the healthcare system must not be at a critical stage.

Six states – Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, Terengganu, Penang and Perlis – have hit the threshold indicators and moved on to Phase Two of the NRP.

Universiti Putra Malaysia infectious disease expert Dr Malina Osman hailed the latest vaccination numbers as a positive sign.“I think most of us feel happy about the latest vaccination rate,” she said, adding that this momentum could be sustained if the vaccine supplies arrived on schedule.

Although herd immunity would not totally erase the Covid-19 virus, she said higher vaccination numbers would be crucial in the nation’s recovery.

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