Current Affairs, Featured, Sabah

Sabah in deep trouble if PN and Sabah government don’t address extremely low vaccine registrations now

Press Statement
2nd Jun 2021

Sabah Heading for Deep Trouble with Extremely Low Vaccine Uptake

Democratic Action Party (DAP) Member of Parliament for Sandakan, Vivian Wong, in a statement issued today warned that Sabah is heading for deep trouble if both the Special Committee For Ensuring Access To Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) and the state government do not review and address the root cause of the extremely low vaccine registration rate currently experienced by the state.

Based on data provided from the JKJAV website, as of 31 May 2021, Sabah has only managed to achieve a vaccine registration rate of 19.07%, the only state in the country that has a registration rate lower than 20%. This is nearly two times lower than the registration rate achieved by Kelantan, the second lowest state, which has 34.75% of its adult population registered under the National Immunisation Programme.

Source: JKJAV

Vivian remarked that this is a very worrying trend as the extremely low vaccine uptake rate in Sabah could result in Sabah being the last state in the country to achieve herd immunity, hence, the last state to reopen its border, and the last state to recover from the current economic downturn. This will have a disastrous impact on our state socially and economically.

She also lamented that however, up till now, we have not seen any concerted effort from the JKJAV and the state government to review and address the root cause of this extremely low registration rate. This is utmost irresponsible on the part of the government.

Firstly, many have conveniently argued that Sabah is a sparsely populated state, a huge state with a large rural population without basic internet or mobile phone coverage. Is this the real reason behind our low registration rate? Look at Sarawak, an even larger state with a large rural population too, where many are living in kampung with no road access or mobile coverage. However, up till 31 May, Sarawak has achieved a vaccine registration rate of 59.59%, more than 3 times higher than Sabah. How do we explain the huge discrepancy here? Does the JKJAV have a specific registration rate for each district or each town to pin-point the “problematic” district or location?

Source: JKJAV

Secondly, based on the JKJAV statistics, 559,376 people here have registered for the immunisation programme and this translates to 19.07% of our adult population. Mathematically, the total adult population for Sabah works out to be 2.933 million based on the above percentage. Is this adult population figure accurate to start with? How about the large numbers of Sabahan currently residing elsewhere like Kuala Lumpur or Johor Bahru? There could be as many as 300,000 thousand of them in other states around the country. If this group of people have already registered for vaccination in the states they are residing in, then are we not double counting them and hence causing our registration rate to be lower than the actual case?

Thirdly, the presence of large number of immigrants in the state, including those undocumented, has made the registration for vaccination even more difficult as many among this group have an inherent fear of the authority. Does JKJAV or the state government have any statistics that out of the 2.933 million adult population here, how many are categorised as immigrants? The sad truth is Sabah will not be able to achieve herd immunity if our large immigrant population (legal or otherwise), is not vaccinated. Thus, has the government come up with a strategy to vaccinate the immigrant population in the state? Minister in charge of JKJAV, Khairy Jamaluddin has earlier said that the government is considering administering a single dose vaccine for this group for practical reasons. Is there any progress on this front? Out of the 5 Covid-19 vaccines considered under our national immunisation programme, only the CanSino Bio vaccine can be administered in a single dose. So is the government reserving this specially for our immigrant population?

Khairy’s tweet dated Feb 17

“According to Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, Malaysia will receive 12 million doses of Sinovac Vaccine in June. From 25 Apr to 31 May this year, Sabah’s vaccination registration rate has only gone up from 15.4% to 19.07%, a mere 3.67%. Assuming that we manage to increase the registration by another 5% to 24% by the end of June, we will only have 703,986 persons registered. Take away the approximate 150,000 persons that have already been vaccinated, we will be left with about 550,000 persons on the registration list. 10% of the 12 million doses promised by the minister will be able to cover all that and more. Then we will be facing a situation where we have more vaccines than people registered for the vaccine!”

“To effectively deal with this issue, the government must immediately and critically analyse and fully understand the root cause of such low vaccine uptake in Sabah, instead of relying on the same standard approach and hope things will improve by itself.”

Vivian Wong
MP for Sandakan

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