Weekly Highlights

The government must stay focused and ensure senior citizens are prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine

The Covid-19 mortality rate in Malaysia has been increasing at an alarming rate. In the past week itself, there were 362 deaths in Malaysia.

74% of the total deaths in the past week are that of senior citizens above 60 years old. This is unsurprising as senior citizens have been considered as a high-risk group. They are more likely to develop severe illnesses if infected with Covid-19.

Senior citizens are rightly prioritised in phase 2 of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK). The government must focus on completing phase 2 immediately to reduce the Covid-19 death rate in Malaysia.

“My office has been receiving numerous enquiries and complaints from senior citizens who have registered for the vaccine. Many of them are anxious as they have not been called for vaccination. Contrary to popular perception, not all senior citizens are retired or have a provider. Many are still working and are therefore exposed to the virus daily.” – Khoo Poay Tiong

Indeed, phase 2 of the immunisation programme has been progressing very slowly. The government has repeatedly attributed this to the delay in receiving vaccine supply.

In the interest of transparency, I call upon the government to provide more detailed information on:

(1) How many of those who have registered for the Covid-19 vaccine are 60 years old and above;

(2) How many of those who have been vaccinated are 60 years old and above; and

(3) How are those under phase 2 queued for vaccination? (for example: according to age, comorbidities, date of registration, etc)

The government must also take steps to ensure existing vaccine supplies are prioritised for senior citizens. This can be done in several ways.

First, senior citizens in ALL states should be given the choice to register for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Currently, this option is only limited to those in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang, Johor, and Sarawak.

The AstraZeneca vaccine will thereafter be opened to everyone else in those state regardless of their age and risk profile. In effect, this means that the government is prioritising them over senior citizens in other states.

Second, the waiting lists in vaccination centres should prioritise senior citizens. As I understand, vaccination centres will call up people on a pre-prepared waiting list if there are recipients who do not turn up for their appointment. This is understandable in order to not waste the vaccines prepared for the day.

However, I urge the government to clarify the policy on who are prioritised on the waiting list. This procedure may be prone to abuse, i.e. queue jumping, if left unchecked.

As per the national Covid-19 immunisation policy introduced by Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (pictured), senior citizens should be prioritised and included in the waiting list.

Third, phase 3 of the immunisation programme was supposed to start in May 2021. The Minister in charge of vaccination, Khairy Jamaluddin has indicated that this would be postponed to June. I urge the government to vaccinate all senior citizens who have registered before starting phase 3.

Concurrently, the government must step up efforts to register more senior citizens for vaccination. My office has been organising vaccine registration drives for the past two months, and we found that most senior citizens have difficulties registering themselves.

Last week, Malaysian Residential Aged Care Operators (MyAgeCOpe), an association representing more than 1,700 elderly care home, has expressed disappointment over the government’s inaction. The government should work closely with such stakeholders to increase registration among senior citizens.

In conclusion, I urge the government to remain focused and adhere to its Covid-19 Immunisation policy of prioritising senior citizens.

Khoo Poay Tiong

MP Kota Melaka

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