THE NATIONAL Covid-19 Immunisation Programme is scheduled to begin rolling out on Friday.
The country’s biggest-ever vaccination exercise will involve more than 10,000 personnel from the ranks of GPs, pharmacists, nurses, medical students, Malaysian Red Crescent, St John Ambulance and community volunteers.
It’s a massive effort to curb the virus that is killing people and crippling the country’s economy.
Carrying out a national vaccination exercise is not new to Malaysia.
Since the 1950s, the Health Ministry has rolled out about a dozen smaller-scaled programmes nationwide providing free immunisation to children to prevent major childhood diseases.
And judging by the success of these programmes in the last 70 years, we have enough experience and knowledge to implement this large-scale effort without too many hiccups.
While we can expect some teething problems initially – the need to keep the Pfizer-BioNTech doses at extra low temperatures at all times, for instance, could cause some early logistical issues – there should not be any serious impediments to carrying out the inoculation programme designed to reach 80% of the country’s 32 million people.
The vaccination schedule is divided into three phases, with at least 15.5 million Malaysians, or almost half of the country, slated to be vaccinated by August.
Last week, Dr Adham Baba said the Health Ministry aimed to get 126,000 people vaccinated a day in 600 locations nationwide.
The numbers certainly look doable with seven vaccinators, each assigned 30 patients a day, in every one of those stations.
This means the remaining 10 million recipients can, technically, be inoculated by year-end, ahead of the February 2022 deadline. Of course, this is predicated on the government ensuring the programme runs smoothly and efficiently.
Although vaccination is not compulsory, Malaysians really need to make themselves available for it so that we can all get back to some semblance of normalcy in our lives and stop losing people to this virus.
Make sure to sign up for vaccination appointments when registration opens next month instead of waiting until the last hour, a habit Malaysians are well-known for.
Ever since news about the various vaccines began appearing, they have been tangled in a lot of misinformation and outright fake news that have been making the rounds on social media, all forwarded unthinkingly by people.
To counter unfounded fears, public health officials, religious heads, community leaders and politicians must reach out to sceptics and convince them that these vaccines are both safe and effective. Indeed, millions have already been vaccinated around the world and side-effects have been minimal.
However, vaccination will not change things overnight. It will take time to reach that 80% vaccinated target and the ensuing herd immunity that will stop widespread transmission of the coronavirus.
And as the vaccine is 95% effective (very few vaccines are 100% effective), that means about one out of 20 people who are vaccinated may not be protected from getting the virus.
Also, according to Johns Hopkins University and many other research centres in several countries, it isn’t known yet whether people who have been vaccinated could still carry and transmit the virus to others.
All these are why it is vital to continue with precautions such as wearing masks and practise physical distancing while the vaccination programme gets underway.
It’s far from over. The goal of a Covid-19-free environment, either locally or abroad, is still a long way ahead.
We just have to continue to #kitajagakita.
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