Omicron wave: MP urges govt to ramp up efforts to reach out to unvaccinated, unboosted individuals

Dr Kelvin Yii

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KUCHING, Feb 8: The federal government and Ministry of Health (MOH) should ramp up efforts to reach out to the unvaccinated and even the ‘unboosted’ (individuals who did not get Covid-19 booster shots) to shorten ‘the surge period’ given the current fourth wave of infections due to the Omicron variant, says Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii.

“This includes engaging and encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated, especially if they’re between the ages of 5 and 11.

“While many reports have said that the severity of the Omicron variant may be milder, its impact should not be underestimated, and we must not let our guard down and maintain our preparedness for fighting the pandemic,” he said in a statement today.

He added what is concerning is that while Delta may be perceived as a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’, then Omicron could be the ‘pandemic of the unboosted’.

Dr Yii pointed out that real-world data worldwide has shown that booster shots significantly restore protection against the Omicron variant.

“Booster shots help prevent severe symptoms, which could lead to the reduction of hospitalisation and intensive care unit (ICU) treatment. In addition, data from our MOH has shown that a broader booster coverage could decrease the hospitalisation rate, as seen here in Sarawak.

“That is why a ‘booster dose campaign’ must be launched to increase our booster dose uptake to ensure the most vulnerable are getting the most optimum protection,” said the MP.

According to Dr Yii, as of February 6, 2022, 52.8 per cent of adults have received their booster shots, and there are one million senior citizens who have not received them, along with 3.5 million individuals who were fully vaccinated with Sinovac who have not yet received their booster shots.

“Hence the government must also improve their risk communication and ease concerns of those still hesitant to take the vaccine or the booster dose.

“Another important demographic is children, and engagements must be done with parents to ease some of their concerns. Such engagements are not just about the volume done, but more importantly, it must be continuous, consistent, and widespread,” he said.

He suggested that campaigns or roadshows be done at public areas, including shopping malls and schools where booths can be set up.

The government can also set up a website with all necessary and updated information and FAQs (frequently asked questions) where parents can go and get updated and verified information.

“Another concern is the logistical issues that parents may face when bringing their children for vaccination. I hope the government will issue directives for civil servants and even incentivise the private sector to allow parents to take leave to bring their children for vaccination in designated PPVs, and if needed, time off to take care of their children if they develop certain adverse effects.

“The government should also look at vaccinations at schools to address possible logistical issues, especially in the rural areas. Vaccines have always been administered among children in schools, and such mechanism can be done for the Covid-19 vaccinations,” he said.

Dr Yii added that the increase of positive cases is inevitable with Omicron in the next few weeks. However, the data and facts clearly show that vaccination and public health intervention works.

“To shorten this surge period, let us all play our part to get our loved ones vaccinated or boosted, put on a mask, sanitise regularly, and practise physical distancing.” — DayakDaily