Race against time – Empower local providers, cut red tape to speed up vaccination rate

We are fighting a pandemic, and as Malaysia grapples with a ferocious third wave with no end in sight, we are faced with many difficult choices as a nation.

To stop this Covid-19 pandemic, we must cooperate and do everything we can to not be a vector of transmission, or worse, its victim.

On the other hand, our strongest (although not the only) strategy is an aggressive vaccination rate. We seem to be very slow in vaccinating our people. We must pick up the pace.

Up to May 26, 2021, we had vaccinated 1,667,280 individuals with at least one dose, while 937,756 had already completed both doses.

The national programme goal is to vaccinate 80 per cent of Malaysia’s population of 32.75 million. The current figure accounts for about 5.2 per cent of the population. We have a long way to go.

Pledges that more people will be vaccinated in the coming months have been made, following the increase in vaccine supplies.

The public is eager to receive their shots, as registrations for the AstraZeneca slots on two occasions, saw some one million slots snapped up within hours. The demand is evident.

In normal times, the public should have the luxury to choose the type of vaccine, weigh the pros and cons, select the venue, date, time and even the person who would administer the vaccine.

However, we are in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis. Our healthcare system is at a tipping point and we are recording two-figure death rates daily.

The current top-down management of the national vaccination plan seems to have multiple barriers.

Some get their appointments showing up on the MySejahtera mobile application, while others have yet to receive their appointments despite being eligible.

There are also instances of MySejahtera not working at all despite repeated attempts to reinstall, wrong dates given due to vaccination centres changing the date, wrong venues, and many other problems.

There were instances where vaccination centres had to compile their own list of eligible vaccine recipients manually and only update MySejahtera after the vaccinations were carried out.

Additionally, there were multiple reports of no shows despite appointments being given.

The reasons may be varied, such as the appointment details not showing up on their mobile application, and last-minute developments, such as fever, getting infected with Covid-19, or changing their minds about the vaccination.

Being a central booking system, the practical difficulties are when last-minute changes occur, communication with the designated vaccination centre becomes challenging.

Likewise, for the vaccination centres to contact individuals for confirmation of attendance and rescheduling, among others, are equally tough.

EMPOWER LOCAL PROVIDERS

Instead of a central top-down approach, we should empower states and local vaccination centres to compile their own lists according to the eligibility criteria, manage their own vaccine requirements and vaccinate as fast as they can.

Members of the public should be able to register with their nearest local provider, ensuring that those who are eligible and agreeable for the vaccine are quickly added to the list.

Such a concept promotes flexibility in scheduling and contacting back-up lists. Other logistics issues can be tackled more efficiently when the load is shared and spread out among local providers nationwide.

VACCINE CHOICES

It’s been said the best vaccine is the one you can get soonest.

Vaccine choices should only be offered when we have enough supply.

In this exploding health crisis, the rate of vaccination is crucial and offering choices will likely complicate the speed of uptake.

OTHER MEASURES

Allowing the use of more Covid-19 vaccines by our regulatory authorities will help increase the pool of vaccines.

Individual states complementing the national vaccination effort by purchasing additional stocks directly from suppliers, particularly brands not available in the national immunisation programme, will be a significant boost.

Setting up as many vaccination centres as possible, including ramping up the participation of general practitioners and private providers, are important additions.

We need to be proactive, rather than reactive in implementing policies or strategies, cut red tape and bureaucracy, and view all stakeholders as important and equal partners in this greatest test our nation has ever faced if we are to have a fighting chance against this unseen enemy.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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