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Don’t leave out elderly nursing home residents from the Covid-19 National Vaccination Programme Phase 1

Press Statement by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination
18th February 2021

The Federal Government through the Special Committee on COVID-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) should prioritize the elderly especially those in Elderly Care or Nursing Homes and include them in Phase 1 of the National Vaccination Programme in order to reduce the overall healthcare burden and mortality rate.

With the recent declaration of the clusters all around the country involving Elderly Nursing homes including the recent Geronggang & Mas Merah Cluster in Sarawak which so far has reported 51 positive cases and 1 death, the “Jalan Cheras cluster” which reported 24 cases so far among others, there is a huge urgency in prioritising vaccination of the elderly as they are often the most susceptible to more severe symptoms and possible death due to their age and other underlying diseases.

The problem of COVID-19 spreading in care homes is not just limited to Malaysia but is also a global phenomenon. One of the worst cases was seen in Canada, where about 80% of all Covid-19 deaths occurred at elderly care homes. In the United Kingdom and the United States, around 30-40% of all Covid-19 deaths occurred at elderly care homes. Elderly care home deaths account for about half of all deaths in 21 developed countries. An estimated 6.5% of all elderly care home residents in the UK passed away during the first week of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Malaysia, out of 2.3 million persons above age 65, about 30,000 to 40,000 live in care homes or nursing homes, and 8000 are elderly care home workers.  In Malaysia, there are estimated about 1500 elderly care homes out of which only 350 are registered.

The risk of death for elderly care home residents is very high. Older people who are living in care homes are particularly vulnerable not just due to their medical condition, but also because of their cramped living conditions. That is why proactive steps are needed to protect not only the health of the residents but also the employees who care for them.

By vaccinating and protecting those in elderly care homes in Phase 1, we can then reduce hospitalisation rates especially for those who are admitted with more severe symptoms. This will also reduce the overall mortality rate which will then reduce the burden on hospitals and our front liners.

Based on data from Israel that has prioritised vaccination for the elderly as one of the first priority groups, the vaccine has successfully reduced both the infection rate by 94% and the hospitalisation rate by about 90% from the 600,000 who have received the vaccine.

That is why we urge the Federal Government via the Special Committee on COVID-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) to include Elderly Nursing Homes residents, both registered and unregistered in Phase 1 of the National Vaccination Programme. Elderly care homes can be super-spreaders of the virus if proactive preventive measures are not taken.

YB Dr Dzulkifly Ahmad (Kuala Selangor)
YB Dr Lee Boon Chye (Gopeng)
YB Dr Kelvin Yii (Bandar Kuching)
YB Dr Hatta Ramli (Lumut)
YB Sim Tze Tzin (Bayan Baru)
YB Dr Ong Kian Ming (Bangi)
YB Dr Siti Maria (Exco Kesihatan Selangor)
YB Dr Norlela (Exco Kesihatan Pulau Pinang)
YB Veerapan (Exco Kesihatan Negeri Sembilan)

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