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Sabahans need PN to communicate openly and effectively about the vaccination programme

Press Statement
25th February 2021

Democratic Action Party (DAP) Member of Parliament for Sandakan, Vivian Wong, in a statement issued today urged the government to be more proactive and transparent in communicating about the vaccination programme to all people in Sabah, even as Malaysia enters a new phase of combating the Covid-19 pandemic this week with the commencement of mass vaccination.

She made the above statement in response to the arrival of the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines last Sunday and to the Prime Minister kick-starting the National Vaccination Programme yesterday by becoming the first person in Malaysia to receive the vaccine.

According to available information on The Special Committee For Ensuring Access To Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) website, the first phase of the vaccination will involve vaccinating half a million frontliners in the country from March to April 2021. Subsequently, under Phase 2 of the programme, an estimated 9.4 million categorised under the high-risk group and senior citizens above the age of 60 will receive their vaccine from April to August this year. Finally, under Phase 3, as many as 13.7 million people (18 years old and above) will be vaccinated between May 2021 and February 2022 to achieve herd immunity.

Further, under the National Vaccination Programme, the government will set up 605 Vaccine Administration Centres (VAC) and 54 Vaccine Storage Centres (VSC) in the country, with 5 VAC and 1 VSC to be located in the Sandakan District.

“While the start of the vaccination programme ushers in a new phase in our effort to combat Covid-19, the devil is in the details. Up till now, we were only informed that the first batch of vaccines will arrive in Kota Kinabalu this afternoon, but how and when will these vaccines be distributed to other districts like Sandakan? Where are the VAC and VSC in Sabah and Sandakan? When will the vaccination programme start in Sabah? There are a lot more questions that need to be answered to ensure that the programme can be implemented smoothly in Sabah.”

 “As a Member of Parliament, I am supposed to receive the vaccine under Phase 1 of the programme. However, until now, I have not received any notice on registration or to make an appointment for the vaccine,” Vivian said.

“Lately, there are increasing social media postings circulating around, raising concerns of receiving the vaccine. With my age and current health condition, I have no problem getting vaccinated as recommended by the Ministry of Health. But are relevant agencies setting up any hotlines or communication channels to answer people’s queries and concerns on getting the vaccines? The government must come up with a communication strategy to ensure that accurate and up-to-date information is communicated effectively to all people, especially those living in rural areas,” she added.

“In addition, the Minister in charge of JKJAV, Khairy Jamaluddin, announced on 11 Feb 2021 that all foreign nationals living in Malaysia will be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 for free, including undocumented migrants. I would like to ask the Minister how many of these foreign nationals will be involved and what is the timeline for them to be vaccinated? In Sabah alone, the number of foreign nationals and undocumented and stateless persons is estimated to be over 1 million. How is the government going to carry out the vaccination programme involving this group of people when the government itself doesn’t even have any record or information on their identity and whereabouts?” Vivian asked.

“I have repeatedly raised the issue of immigrants and undocumented persons in Parliament, calling it the “mother of all problems” for Sabah. Unfortunately, it takes a global pandemic to expose all the problems related to them. We may not be able to achieve herd immunity if we do not vaccinate them. But in order to vaccinate them, we need a proper system to manage and control them, as there is none currently. It is time the government shows some real commitment and political will to resolve this issue once and for all.”

Vivian Wong
MP for Sandakan

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