Registration for the COVID-19 vaccination

The Malaysian government had made a commitment to provide the COVID-19 vaccine free for all citizen and non-citizen who are residing in Malaysia. The aim to vaccinate everyone is to protect its citizen and to have a positive impact on the economy.

To ensure that the campaign is a success, people need to register for the vaccination programme. However, up until 10 April 2021 the number of people who have registered is still low. Nationally only 8.4 million people or 34.8% of the people have registered.

The percentage who registered differ from states, Selangor is the state with the highest percentage (46.7%) who have registered for the vaccine, while Kelantan (21.8%) and Sabah (13.6%) was among the lowest.

In a response to an interview with Allison Lai from the Star Newspaper, Prof Dr Sanjay Rampal and Prof Dr Victor Hoe discuss the issue of the low registration rate and how to overcome them.

Prof Sanjay said that “Maintaining trust and goodwill is key for the vaccine uptake by the community. We should be transparent about the harms along with the benefit of the vaccine.

Our opinions tend to be polarised through social media. We need more experts to be neutral to the science and critically appraise it without pre-formed bias.  This will increase trust in the translation of the science and how it may benefit the community.

In addition, we should have more vaccine roadshows in shopping complexes, workplaces, and community centres. We can also take advantage of local community settings such as the PPR or local villages to promote a better understanding of the vaccines.”

Prof Victor response was “There are two main reasons why people are still not registering for the COVID-19 vaccine through MySejahtera. They are technology and trust.

On the topic of technology, there are many people who do not have a smart phone, so they are not able to register. Even people with smart phones, some may not know how to register.

The second issue on trust, people have the perception that the vaccine is unsafe, and some vaccine is better than others. When I was have having a community engagement with some residence there are still many people who do not trust the safety of the vaccine. They are worried about the adverse effects and dying after taking the vaccine. They inform us that they received much news through the social media and friends about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

Both these issues can be addressed using all the Government machinery and not just the Ministry of Health. Everyone should do their parts; the Ketua Kampung, Penghulu, ADUN, MP, etc. They should organised campaign to help the people to register and also to clear the doubts of the people regarding the safety of the vaccine, thus addressing the technology and trust issues.

The community engagement session that I had last week was organised by YB Michelle Ng the ADUN of Subang Jaya addresses these two issues.

However, before the Ketua Kampung, Penghulu, ADUN, MP, etc organised this campaign, all of them should have completed their vaccination. This is to ensure that the people would have confidence in the safety of the vaccine.”

Both Sanjay and Victor shared the same opinion.

Victor’s response was “The reason for the low registration in Kelantan is the same as other states in Malaysia. Technology and Trust are still the two main issue. We should address both issues adequately. We always want to blame people if our campaign fail. This should not be the way forward; we should reassess why the campaign fail and address those issues. Without understanding the real issue, we would not be able to solve the problem. In this case, I think that the failure of the campaign is due to technology and trust. This can be addressed with engagement and adequate assistance given to the people”

Prof Sanjay said that “For states with low vaccine registration, it may be good for the local leaders to be more vocal on the need to complete the vaccine registration. Engagement with grassroots leaders may help influence the local communities to register”

Both Victor and Sanjay disagrees that vaccine should be made compulsory.

“Vaccines should continue to be voluntary. Our knowledge of vaccines is still evolving and a policy to make it mandatory faces a difficult ethical dilemma. Vaccines should help us in the short term of this pandemic, but it may not be the prime solution. A longer-term and more sustainable option may be to improve our public health capacity, governance, and the economy.” Prof Sanjay Rampal

However, Prof Victor have a different opinion, “As an Occupational Health Physician and trained in Occupational Safety and Health, we are trained to look for the root cause of a problem. We need to address the root cause of the problem. The root cause is not people do not want to be vaccinated, most people would like to be vaccinated. There are only a small number of anti-vaxxer who are making a lot of noise. We should not let them dominate the narrative. If we make it compulsory, the anti-vaxxer will have a field day. There should be no compulsion.

The root cause again falls back to technology and trust. If we do not address them, even with compulsory registration for the COVID-19 vaccine, people would not come for the vaccine. As a doctor, we have no right to force someone to take a treatment, it should be voluntary, and they should be the one making the choice.”

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