ON Sunday, I had an inkling of what K-pop fans go through when they try to buy tickets to concerts by their favourite artistes. What I was doing was not so exciting though: All I wanted was a slot for my AstraZeneca vaccination.
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had announced bookings would start at noon on May 2.
So like a hopeful K-pop concertgoer waiting for ticket reservations to open, I was all ready by 11.45am with the MySejahtera app on my phone.
Noon arrived and thus began a most frustrating 10 minutes of repeatedly filling in my MyKad number and phone number and tapping on various dates at my preferred vaccination centre (Pusat Pemberian Vaksin, PPV), which was Universiti Malaya.
After many unsuccessful tries and seeing how the dates were rapidly filling up, I was ready to give up. I decided to give it one last shot on my PC instead of my phone.
I logged onto the booking website after a few tries and secured the same day and PPV for my mother and me.
We can count ourselves as among the lucky 268,800 people to have secured the AstraZeneca vaccination slots available in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
All were taken in three-and-a-half hours, much like how those concert tickets go in a matter of minutes.
But it sure wasn’t as easy as Khairy put it: “You... will simply just need to pick a special vaccination centre and a date.”
As The Star reported on Monday, the experience was hardly simple for many.
It was puzzling and frustrating because the app was so slow in responding and kept telling me to pick a PPV and date after I had done so.
The appointment exercise was a success simply because of the sheer tenacity of us citizens.
But this was just for the first dose. Do we go through this same tedious booking process for the second jab?
What’s more, Khairy said that the government will expand the opt-in booking to other states.
Well, good luck to my fellow Malaysians in the other states.
The MySejahtera app has been part of our lives for more than a year now.
We must use it whenever we step out of the house and before entering any premises.
Like others, I do so because I think it’s my duty as a responsible citizen in the fight against Covid-19.
Apart from that, the app doesn’t do much for me.
But for almost a fortnight, I have been diligently opening the app even when I don’t leave my house.
You see, two weeks ago, we decided to celebrate my older daughter’s birthday with a staycation in Kuala Lumpur.
We booked a studio suite in the Bukit Bintang area and we had a really good time eating, shopping, sightseeing and taking the MRT to Chinatown and MyTown shopping centre in Jalan Cochrane.
The morning after we got home, we got a slightly ominous message on the MySejahtera app.
We were informed we were now tagged as “Casual contact no symptoms” because during our stay in KL, we were in a place with infected people.
We do not know where and when as MySejahtera does not reveal that information to prevent the place from being stigmatised.
What a bummer!
However, the Health Ministry did not require us to quarantine or take a swab test, just to monitor ourselves for symptoms for 10 days.
I cancelled two makan dates with friends and I have this “one thing to do” on the app daily which counts the days for me to monitor.
However, after five days, the app suddenly went back to day one.
So instead of me having reported my state of health for the 11 days now (at the time of writing), I am on day seven of the assessment.
Now that the app is the main platform for vaccination bookings, it needs to be more robust, intuitive and responsive to be able to handle heavy traffic, especially at times when thousands try to log in simultaneously.
The app should clearly indicate how many appointments are available at a PPV on a given day, with the time slots indicated.
It’s not rocket science; that’s how the Employees Provident Fund gives out appointments that are confirmed almost immediately with an email notice.
Other booking sites have queue numbers to show the applicant where they stand in the waiting line.
If the government is serious about making it easy for people to register and get vaccination dates, I hope they spend more time and effort on improving this app.
Like I said, how do we get an appointment for the second dose of AstraZeneca?
Khairy has said the second jab will be in 12 weeks – the World Health Organisation recommends that the two 0.5ml doses be given within eight to 12 weeks apart.
But does that mean we just have to turn up at the same place and time in 12 weeks or will we have to book a new appointment?
To be honest, even though I registered for the vaccine months ago, I wasn’t sure which vaccine I wanted.
We are bombarded with so much conflicting and confusing information because new findings keep coming up.
The AstraZeneca vaccine wasn’t high on my list mainly because of the reported risk of blood clots.
Then I learned the risk is four in one million jabs, or 0.0004%, which is far lower than the blood clot risk for women taking birth control pill, which is 500-1,200 cases in one million women, or 0.05%-0.012%, and 1,763 cases out of one million smokers, or 0.18%.
But millions of women are still on the pill and we know statistics and even scary pictures of cancerous lungs on cigarette packs have not fazed smokers.
So why should we be so afraid of this vaccine?
While scientists continue their research on the efficacy of the vaccines, how they respond to the increasing number of variants of the coronavirus and, most importantly to me, what their long-term effects are, vaccines remain our best weapon against this most insidious and sneaky virus.
In my last column, I sounded the warning for us to not make the same mistakes India made which has resulted in a Covid-19 tsunami now overwhelming that nation.
We too have an increasing number of cases, and if we want to be honest about it, it’s because we started to relax restrictions too soon.
The government might have meant well to allow Ramadan bazaars but that was clearly a big mistake as physical distancing is practically impossible in such crowded places.
As for interstate travel for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, please don’t allow it.
If the government is mulling over a movement control order 3.0, it makes no sense to permit massive numbers of people to move across state lines.
See what happened during the Sabah state election and in India.
They need to be as strict as they were during the Christmas and Chinese New Year festivals.
It’s as simple as that!
For all of us suffering from pandemic fatigue and mask angst, I would like to give the last word to Prof K. Srinath Reddy, president of India’s Public Health Foundation: “We can’t freeze human life. If we can’t physically distance in the crowded cities, we can at least make sure everyone wears a proper mask. And wear it properly. That’s not a big ask.”
The views expressed here are the writer’s own