Kudos to government for the aggressive vaccination drive

MANY are criticising the government, especially the Health Ministry, for what they claim as poor management of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Owners of small businesses are among those who have been very vocal. This is understandable since they have been badly affected by the lockdowns and other measures enforced to reduce infections, which remain high to date.

Some blame the emergence of new more infectious variants, especially the Delta variant, for this.

Others, especially on social media, blame those who do not follow standard operating procedures (SOP). They are particularly riled up by the actions of certain political leaders who have not been adhering to the SOP. There have been accusations of double standards, and feelings of distrust for the authorities are building up among the general public.

However, we should accept the fact that this pandemic is an unusual health phenomenon, which has caught the entire world by surprise. Even countries with developed economies that should logically be equipped with the most advanced healthcare system have not been spared the devastating onslaught of the virus. The healthcare systems of these countries were rendered helpless, what more the developing nations where the health infrastructure is not as advanced.

Even the World Health Organisation has admitted to not being fully prepared for the battle against Covid-19. As such, most of their initiatives have been introduced through the trial-and-error approach.

The fact that the virus keeps mutating makes the situation even more complicated.

The battle has become more difficult with the mushrooming of conspiracy theorists on social media, causing those who are less well-informed to lose faith in the system.

When Malaysia was doing comparatively well in the early months of the pandemic, our Health director-general received a lot of praise. At international level, he was credited for managing the pandemic well compared to other countries. Little did we know that new waves of infection would follow.

The truth is everyone is learning how best to deal with the virus. We still are learning new things every day. It is a mistake to equate the current pandemic with the other recent outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) illnesses and other microbe attacks. We must be fair in our criticisms.

Whatever it is, experts see vaccination as a possible solution not so much to eradicate but more to live with the virus. It is unfortunate that even vaccination, which has produced positive outcomes in some countries in the West, has been

ridiculed by the conspiracy theorists. Vaccine hesitancy has proven to be a major challenge for the government besides the uncertain supply of vaccines.

Despite the odds, our vaccination rate is among the highest in the world, exceeding 400,000 doses a day. In order to achieve that feat, the number of vaccination centres was increased, and the private sector was roped in to help administer the jabs. The result has been outstanding, and there are indications that we may reach 80% herd immunity before the end of the year. The government deserves credit for such a feat.

PROFESSOR DATUK DR AHMAD IBRAHIM , Tan Sri Omar Center for STI Policy Studies UCSI University

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