LettersNationOPINION

Letter: Prepare for Vaccine Roll-out

By the Malaysian Health Coalition
Full Signature List on myhealthcoalition.org

The Malaysian Health Coalition congratulates the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) for its conditional registration of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. We deeply appreciate NPRA’s thorough and rigorous work in keeping Malaysians safe.

Only one month is left before the government’s intended vaccine rollout and there is still much to be done. We strongly urge urgent attention to the following:

  • Strengthen vaccine confidence

We have yet to see a coordinated, government-led effort to boost vaccine confidence among the Rakyat. Meanwhile, anti-vaccine narratives, conspiracy theories and false information run rampant on social media and in chat groups. The government must engage with all levels of society to rapidly increase public education on vaccines and combat misinformation. We also urge non-government stakeholders such as the media, academics, businesses, religious authorities and civil society organisations to do their part in ensuring that only evidence-based information on vaccines is published and shared.

  • Prioritise the most vulnerable populations

Care home residents are among the frailest in our population, as proven by several clusters in this group. They must be given priority in the vaccination delivery schedule. An estimated 30,000 older adults live in care homes, supported by approximately 8,000 carers. This is a reasonably small number of vaccine doses and should be high on the priority list. Care home workers, who are very much frontliners too, must be prioritised alongside residents. Besides that, we must appropriately prioritize other vulnerable populations, including those significantly disabled, migrant workers and refugees. We welcome statements by the Minister of Science, Technology & Innovation that all residents of Malaysia should be protected. We stand ready to contribute to the details and implementation of the National Vaccination Plan.

  • Build long-term vaccine manufacturing capability

The government must seize this opportunity to develop infrastructure for long-term vaccine capability in Malaysia. This includes the end-to-end development from world-class scientific research to manufacturing and international distribution. These are ambitious but achievable goals as Malaysia is already equipped with high calibre human and technological resources. This will reduce Malaysia’s reliance on foreign manufacturers. Moreover, a domestic vaccine and pharmaceutical infrastructure will have far-reaching, positive ripple effects on our economy and global standing.

 

The vaccine is not a silver bullet that will rid us of the pandemic. Therefore, we must remember that preventive measures will and must remain in place for many months to come. However, we must use our most important vaccination program in history to protect the vulnerable, address inequity and build future self-reliance in our health system.

 

BERKHIDMAT UNTUK NEGARA. 

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