Focus on vaccination for elderly vital


THE Health Minister is wondering why many of our senior citizens have not registered for the second phase of the National Immunisation Programme.

Many people, including medical and other professionals from this age group, have shared with me their thoughts related to this matter.

One of the main reasons is that they are waiting to see if the authorities concerned will eventually be “enlightened” and “caring” enough to give them the choice of vaccine they want to be inoculated with. Many feel outraged that they do not have a choice of what is injected into their bodies!

Given that most of the Covid-19 vaccines currently available worldwide have not been adequately tested, and that some were created with relatively new technology, our senior citizens’ preference for a vaccine they deem more widely “tried and tested” and therefore “safer” is perfectly understandable.

There is also the perception that some government ministers are using the “delay strategy” to get their preferred vaccines. So, would anyone blame these senior citizens for harbouring hope that if they wait and see, they may get the vaccine of their choice later?

What can the government do to speed up registration and vaccination for the second phase involving these “wait-and-see” senior citizens?

Firstly, let’s bear in mind that senior citizens are a very vulnerable group, as many have complicated or even multiple medical conditions that warrant careful consideration when it comes to vaccination.

Secondly, the risk factors have to be minimised when choosing a vaccine for them in light of various negative reports about undesirable and longer-term side effects of some vaccines, whether proven or not at this point in time.

As such, those who are well informed would surely be more willing to register for vaccination if they are given a choice. As it is now, it does look to them like “register now and you risk not knowing what vaccine you will get.”

Various groups have advocated for letting people have a choice on which vaccine they want. This will definitely encourage more people, especially senior citizens, to register.

The government has finally announced the good news that private hospitals would be involved in the vaccination programme to help speed up registration and administration of the jabs. Perhaps now is the time to seriously consider giving the public, especially senior citizens, a choice.

The Health Ministry could just announce which hospital is using which vaccine so that people who prefer that particular vaccine can register with the hospital concerned. This will kill two birds with one stone – speed up registration and vaccination while giving the people a choice.

From what I heard recently, in Singapore, each vaccination centre only carries one type of vaccine. So, the public effectively get to choose the vaccine they prefer when they register with the centre of their choice. Is this not something we can do here in Malaysia?

In addition, since the government is looking into setting up vaccination centres in big factories and workplaces, why not also include recreational clubs with sizable membership of senior citizens, such as the Royal Lake Club and Royal Selangor Club in the Klang Valley?

Finally, to protect vulnerable senior citizens and to attain herd immunity nationwide as soon as possible, we cannot wait for private hospitals to procure their own vaccines. It will be too long a wait, knowing that currently there is an acute shortage of vaccines worldwide. We have to start the government vaccination programme in private hospitals now rather than later.

DR GAN SIOWCK LEE

Kuala Lumpur

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