KUCHING, May 6: The government needs to go all out by using the resources at their disposal including the Community Communications Department (J-Kom) to allay Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccination registration nationwide, as the low overall registration rate is worrisome.
Highlighting this, Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii thus demanded transparency on what has J-Kom, which has been allocated RM40.5 million in the current budget, achieved until now and the role they played in pushing this important issue.
Based on official data released by the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee (JKJAV), he shared that the current nationwide total registration for Covid-19 vaccination only stood at 40.40 per cent while the country is halfway through Phase 2 vaccine rollout targeting senior citizens and high-risk groups.
“If we go into the micro-level, we see even lower registrations in different States including Sabah at 16.10 per cent, Kelantan 26.7 per cent, Pahang 31.50 per cent, and Terengganu 32.40 per cent.
“We were informed that the uptake for high-risk groups who are supposedly covered under Phase 2 is low with less than 30 per cent of the total target of 9.4 million population. This is worrying because they are the ones who need to be protected immediately,” he pointed out in a statement today.
As this issue could curtail Malaysia’s efforts to achieve 80 per cent herd immunity by end of the year, Dr Yii emphasised that the government should fully utilise the J-Kom to heighten awareness campaigns and incentives to significantly increase vaccine registration especially among the high-risk and vulnerable groups in areas with low registrations all around the country.
“The government must be proactive in looking at the issue from a granular and micro-level by identifying specifically districts, sub-district and even communities that have low registrations in those States, and then framing strategic communications based on local language, and culture to boost up registration numbers in those areas.
“Currently however such efforts of strategic communications seem lacking with many still hesitating to sign up for vaccination,” he observed.
Noting the slow rate of vaccination due to vaccine supply, Dr Yii stressed that this is the time to boost registration among the people so that once the vaccine supplies come, the demand will be higher than the supply itself.
“The government cannot be merely releasing generic campaign materials and hoping those hesitant will somehow sign up eventually but should take the extra step of identifying high-risk groups based on data available in public and private hospitals including PekaB40 data and proactively approach them to help with registration or even inoculate them on the spot,” he added.
On top of that, with the use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorised in Canada for children aged 12 to 15 years old as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to take a similar step very soon, Dr Yii suggested that the government also start promoting registration among children in Malaysia so that these group of young people can be vaccinated once the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) gives approval.
“This is important as 30 per cent of our population is below 18 years old and in order to achieve herd immunity, this is an important group that we must protect especially if we want to see a more comprehensive re-opening of schools.
“With all the government machinery at their disposal including J-Kom, Information Department and many others, their main priority should be on Covid-19 vaccination and not any other political communications,” he added. — DayakDaily