Sarawak reaches high 80 per cent Covid-19 vaccination goal

An infographic of the total cumulative vaccine doses administered in Malaysia as of Aug 16, with Sarawak ranks second among the states and regions.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Aug 17: Sarawak has achieved a high vaccination rate, well ahead of its end of August target, with 81.5 per cent of its adult population fully vaccinated against the Covid-19.

It is the second state in Malaysia to achieve such a major milestone, after Labuan which achieved such high immunisation coverage on July 27.

According to the the Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV), a total of 1,811,036 or 89.2 per cent of eligible Sarawak residents had received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccines, and 1,664,749 or 81.5 per cent were fully vaccinated with two-doses as of yesterday (Aug 16).

Yesterday, Sarawak administered another 2,362 shots for the first dose and 11,490 shots for the second dose.

Among the states in Malaysia which have over 50 per cent full immunisation coverage are Klang Valley which comprises Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (68.9 per cent), Negeri Sembilan (64.5 per cent) and Perlis (55.2 per cent).

Tailing behind these five states and federal territories are Melaka (40.5 per cent), Penang (38.1 per cent), Terengganu (36.3 per cent), Perak (36.2 per cent), Pahang (33.5 per cent) and Kedah (31.8 per cent).

Kelantan, Johor and Sabah are the states lagging behind by a lot in immunisation rate with only 29.9 per cent, 29.3 per cent and 23.6 per cent of their population fully vaccinated respectively.

Uggah (in white shirt) and Dr Sim (in yellow shirt) greeting an elderly man waiting for his turn to be given the Covid-19 vaccine.

In Sarawak, credit must be given to the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) led by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas together with the statewide health and local authorities for their gigantic efforts and bold strategies to take the vaccine directly to the people.

With some 345 vaccination centres (PPVs) being set up and a multitude support from private hospitals and clinics, various sectors of economy from industries to tourism throughout urban and rural Sarawak, the Sarawak government had taken extra measures to reach those in the hardest-to-reach places by deploying various kind of mobile units and working together with the military force to ensure that no one was left behind including the homeless and stateless.

Most importantly, it was the efforts of the medical and non-medical frontliners who have toiled countless number of extra hours and gone beyond their call of duty since vaccination rolled out at the end of February this year with aggressive ramp-up for the past three months to make this purposeful journey a success.

All Sarawakians should also give themselves a pat on the back for without their cooperation and overwhelming response towards vaccination, this feat would not be possible.

Like how Uggah and Minister of Local Government and Housing Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian had repeatedly put it, “We are in this together, and unless we are all safe, no one is safe.”

Health personnel administering the Covid-19 vaccines in this file photo.

Recently, however, many have begun questioning if herd immunity is the answer to returning life to normalcy, now that the mutant strains particularly the more dangerous, highly transmissible and vaccine resistant Covid-19 variants like Delta and Lambda have emerged and spread.

As more virulent variants have emerged and spread, Sarawak is also seeing a sharp increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent week with a record high of 1,566 cases recorded just yesterday (Aug 16) while increasing number of children and teenagers are getting infected.

Dr Sim has reported today that 832 cases or 10.7 per cent recorded in Sarawak between Aug 1 and 12 this year involved children below six years of age, while seven to 12-year-olds accounted for 9.94 per cent of 773 cases and 13 to 17-year-olds accounted for 8.65 per cent or 673 cases.

It must be noted that experts have indicated that herd immunity will not eradicate Covid-19, but to reduce, block and slow down transmissions and control outbreaks.

Referring to diseases like measles, a National Geographic report pointed out that even though the general public does not have to worry about them, local outbreaks still occur and “as with seasonal influenza, diseases can also become endemic to circulate in a population at less virulent level but capable of breaking through when our defenses slip” which indicates why Covid-19 will likely be around forever.

Despite the high number of cases in Sarawak due to the Delta variant, it was evident that vaccines have significantly prevented severe illnesses as well as reduced deaths, hospital admissions and intensive care unit (ICU) hospitalisations in cases under Category 3, 4 and 5 statewide.

Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had two days ago (Aug 15) reported that Covid-19 patients in ICU had dropped by 60 per cent in Sarawak and close to 100 per cent in Labuan.

As the world will have to live with Covid-19 for a long time, Sarawakians too need to gradually come to terms with and acknowledge this reality and the fact that getting vaccinate remained one of the most crucial steps to protect ourselves, our families and our community from the virus which is now on the loose and will continue to evolve.

Dr Sim, who is SDMC advisor, had also urged people to be prepared to accept and adapt to the changes in policies and live with some kind of restrictions until science finds the solutions and weapons to deal with it or let nature work its miracle.

Medical staff waiting on an inflatable boat for the vaccine delivery.

Just like how Scientific America in a report highlighted that humanity has gone through several large epidemics in the past 100 or so years that eventually stopped ravaging society as the human body systems are forced to create a brand-new defence, involving new antibodies and other immune system components that can react to and attack the foe.

As such, aggressive vaccination efforts will continue in Sarawak to mop up those eligible who have yet to be vaccinated. People can now walk-in to any PPVs to get their vaccine shots which are provided free by the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government.

In addition, plans are underway to inoculate children aged 12 to 17 in the next phase as this group is at increasing risk of getting infected, while a third Covid-19 booster shots are being considered as early as October for those who have been fully vaccinated.

Dr Sim has emphasised that Sarawak should not wait for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme’s (NCIP) policy as the State has been vaccinated far ahead of the country and the fact that 29 per cent of the population is younger than 18.

Currently, the Sarawak Covid-19 Advisory Group (Scovag) is conducting research on the use of booster doses as well as suitability of giving vaccines to the 12 to 18-year-old group so that they can be vaccinated safely.

If the plans are approved by federal authorities, Sarawak will be the pioneer State to lead in these efforts and according to Sabah’s Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib, “could help pave the way for how other states should proceed in the future from a national perspective”.

But then again, Sarawak is still not out of the woods yet and until then, everyone must be on highest alert and vigilance and continue to comply with standard operating procedures (SOP) including wearing face masks, physical distancing measures and minimise social activities to get Sarawak out of this crisis.— DayakDaily

File photo of people waiting for their turn to get vaccinated at a vaccination centre.