By Wong Chen
Earlier this week, on 24th February the phase one of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme started with the Prime Minister receiving the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. In Selangor, the Menteri Besar received his first dose on 25th February. This phase one of the programme will go from state to state under the jurisdiction and control of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI).
MOSTI has decided that for phase one, all health frontliners and some non-health frontliners will be vaccinated. The non-health frontliners who will be vaccinated will include ministers, MPs, ADUNs and senior civil servants.
MOSTI’s decision on prioritising some non-health frontliners may seem controversial and self serving. I have yet to be vaccinated but I have been contacted by government health officials. I expect my vaccination to happen sometime in March or April. My vaccination will not involve any other of my family members, just me.
Some politicians have argued that their early vaccinations will encourage the public to accept the vaccine, to so call “lead by example” and thus discourage anti-vaxxers. For me, the more important reason is based on the security protocol to ensure the continuation of government in the face of the pandemic challenges, in particular to protect the executive and legislative branches of government. A healthy cabinet is required to better administer the nation, and Parliament is needed to provide check and balance on the current expanded executive powers. The legislative also represents a replacement pool of leaders, in the event of the executive becoming incapacitated by the pandemic.
The phase one of MOSTI’s vaccination programme will be staggered with a target of 500,000 vaccinations and is expected to end in April. The vaccines to be used in phase one will be from Pfizer-BioNTech. It is uncertain if the Sinovac vaccine will be involved in phase one but the government has started receiving the same from 27th February.
MOSTI has also added that phase two will begin in April and focus on people aged 60 and above, the disabled and people suffering illnesses such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory diseases and heart diseases. Phase two is expected to end in August and is targeted at 6.5 million vaccinations.
Phase three which is for the rest of the population aged 18 years old and above will begin in May 2021 until February 2022. Phase three is targeted at 16 million vaccinations. The government also intends to vaccinate migrant workers too. Please note that children below 18 years will not be vaccinated. People with severe allergies, pregnant and breastfeeding women will also not be vaccinated.
What the vaccination timetable essentially means is that there will be overlapping vaccination periods for phase one and phase two and also overlapping dates for phase two and phase three. The overall vaccination goal is to vaccinate 70% of the population to achieve herd immunity, hence the total target of 23 million vaccinations for our total population of 32 million. This also means that we must continue to be vigilant on wearing mask, sanitising and practice social distancing until the first quarter of 2022.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong recently announced that Parliament may convene during the Emergency. I sincerely hope the Prime Minister will heed the advice of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and enable Parliament to convene as soon as possible and end the Emergency. I am looking forward to help and constructively debate the government to ensure that the vaccination programme is efficient, effective and free from corruption. It is important to note that Pakatan Harapan has issued a statement in mid February that our MPs will set aside our differences and work together with the government on the federal government vaccination programme. The cooperation of MOSTI and the Selangor government illustrates the point that bi-partisanship can and must work to face the pandemic.
Lastly, on another health related issue, I am pleased to inform all that the Klinik Kesihatan project in USJ1 is moving ahead. I am made to understand that officials from the Ministry of Health have recently conducted a site visit. With some luck, construction work will begin this year. This project was first mooted some 12 years ago and it is finally good to see the light of day for it.