Covid-19: Sabah crosses 50% fully vaccinated mark but rumours trigger slowdown

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah crossed the 50% fully vaccinated mark on Saturday (Sept 11), as health workers again struggled to reach out to rural folk and illegal immigrant workers who are in hiding amid unfounded rumours of arrests.

"It has been slowing down over the last few days. In urban areas, we seem to have reached maximum level; this is positive as many have either completed the two doses or are waiting for the second dose," Sabah's immunisation programme operations director Shahelmey Yahya said.

"Now we have to reach out to people in rural areas through our outreach programmes," the state Community Development and People's Wellbeing Minister said when contacted on Saturday.

Sabah's daily average vaccination was up to 60,000 late last month, but over the last few days, it dropped to an average of 40,000.

As of Saturday, the state had reached 51.7% fully vaccinated, and 67% of the 2.84 million adult population had already taken the first dose.

He said among the problems were rumours spread in the migrant community that they would be arrested by police if they came out, and this kept many plantation workers whose passports had expired from turning up at vaccination centres.

Shahelmey said that he had just completed visits to east coast Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan and Semporna, where such rumours had scared away foreigners from getting vaccinated.

"We have been giving assurances that there will be no arrests.

"I was told today, the turn out at vaccine centres was overwhelming in Semporna," he said, adding that the issue of the legal status of foreigners was secondary as the state was focused on achieving herd immunity.

"We have heard that some estate owners are not keen to get their workers vaccinated because they are worried that the government will know that they are employing illegal immigrants.

"This is not our aim, we want to achieve herd immunity," he added.

He said the issue now is to get people to come out to be vaccinated and there is no longer availability of vaccines.

However, Shahelmy was confident that they would be able to complete their first dose of vaccination drive by the end of the month, and would be able to reach 80% herd immunity for the adult population in October.

He said so far, they have also vaccinated nearly 70,000 people with the single-dose CanSino vaccines at islands and remote areas, as it would be easier for health workers, who do not need to go back, to administer a second dose.

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