The Phase 1 vaccination programme which covers healthcare workers, other front liners and elected representatives kicked off on the 24th February 2021. To date, 1,260,937 doses of vaccine have been administered with 771,829 (2.4%) individuals receiving at least one dose of the vaccine and 489,108 (1.5%) are fully vaccinated.
Phase 2 started on 19 April 2021, in this phase, 9.4 million people will receive their vaccines. This includes the remainder of the healthcare workers and essential services, defence and security personnel, and senior citizens, high-risk groups and people with disability. In the final phase, the rest of the people will receive the vaccine, i.e., 13.7 million people.
For the vaccination programme to be successful, people need to register and come for the vaccine. The registration rate is still slow in some states, however, encouraging in others. As of 1st April 2021, 31.4% of the adult Malaysian population have registered, with the highest in Putrajaya (86.5%), followed by Selangor (43.1%) and Kuala Lumpur (42.5%). The three states with the lowest registration are Sabah (11.9%), Kelantan (18.7%), and Terengganu (25.0%).
There are two ways for the Malaysian population to register, the first is using the MySejatera app, available on both iPhone App Store and Google Play store. The MySejatera app is also used for contact tracing. The second methods are through the JKJAV website.
In an interview with Rian Maelzer from the China Global Television Network (CGTN), Prof Dr Victor Hoe discusses the low vaccine registration rate. Dr Hoe said there are two main reasons, technology and trust.
He said that not many people are digitally native and it is difficult for those coming from the analogue world to understand how to register. There is also the issue of people not having a smartphone to register with the MySejathera app.
On trust, he said that people have the perception that the vaccine is unsafe, and some vaccine is better than others. He mentioned what when he was have having a community engagement with some residence in Subang Jaya, there are still many people who do not trust the safety of the vaccine. They are worried about the severe side effects of the vaccine. They inform us that they received much news through social media and friends about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
Methods to improve registration
He said that we should not rely entirely on the Ministry of Health alone. Both the issues of technology and trust can be addressed using all the Government machinery and with the help of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
“Everyone should do their parts; the village heads, Penghulu, state legislative assembly, member of parliament, etc. They should organise campaigns 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,” said Dr Hoe.
Dr Hoe said that he is not so concerned about the vaccine hesitancy, “I don’t think that many people are hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Many of them are just afraid as everything is new and the vaccine was developed is such a rapid pace”.
He stresses that many of the concerns raised by the people are genuine, as there is too much information on COVID-19 and the vaccine, it is really difficult for them to sieve through the fake and genuine information. There is a lot of information out there being spread by anti-vaxxer, we should not allow them to dictate the narrative. It is important for us to engage with the public directly, have engagement sessions at the village and housing estates to talk to the people and hear out their concerns.
The other way to overcome vaccine hesitancy is to share the positive news about the vaccine. He said that many of the frontliners have already been vaccinated and have completed their two doses. There was no report of severe side effects directly linked to the vaccine from this group. Many of the frontliners are also sharing their experience through social media and with families and friends. This will encourage more people to register and get vaccinated.
This Article is Written by Victor Hoe