Malaysia Dateline

Malaysians worried over delayed vaccinations

With PN’s announcement that Malaysia will only receive their first batch of vaccines at the end of February, many are becoming anxious.

Malaysia’s efficiency in handling vaccinations have been called into question after Singapore became the first country in Asia to acquire the vaccines.

Singapore, which started its Covid-19 vaccination campaign on Dec. 30, is estimated to have a comfortable supply of vaccines for all Singaporeans and long-term residents by the third quarter of 2021.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Khairy Jamaludin, has come out to defend the delay, saying it was only a matter of finances. “Singapore signed the agreement a few months before us because their financial ability is much bigger” he said.

Some however were not convinced.

DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang chided the federal government for not obtaining the necessary funds.

“The excuse for the delay in that Malaysia cannot find a paltry sum of RM2.1 billion in an emergency crisis, displays the highest level of ignorance and incompetence of our Ministers and Cabinet. How many more Malaysians will die because of the delay in vaccine delivery? ” questioned Kit Siang.

Even if the vaccine does arrive as promised by end of February, Khairy has estimated that herd immunity may only be achieved 18 months after the first batch has arrived.

Director General of Health, Dr. Noor Hisham has also confirmed that Malaysians would still need to practice normal Covid-19 SOP after receiving the treatment.

Simply put, Malaysians can expect life to return to “normal” somewhere in August 2022. With the frailty of the economy due to Covid-19 and the subsequent MCO, the average Malaysian simply does not have sufficient funds to weather a prolonged storm.

It’s no secret the economy has suffered significantly from the lockdown, with more than 100,000 Malaysians losing their jobs since the start of the MCO last year.
Unfortunately, since the moratorium extension ended right before the second wave hit, small businesses also face a very bleak future.

Vice president of the SME Association of Malaysia, Chin Chee Seong is concerned about the rate of recovery for SMEs.

“Looking at the current situation, I won’t dare say that we will recover fast,” he said.

The delay however isn’t the only thing that is causing frustration, there is also the issue of halal-certified vaccines.

The pork-derived gelatin that is traditionally used in vaccines has raised concerns within the Muslim community. Gelatin is widely used as a stabilizer to ensure vaccines will remain safe during storage and transport.

While Dr. Noor has clarified that vaccines used in Malaysia do not need to be halal certified, Khairy has promised Malaysians that the government will verify the halal status of China’s Sinovac.

Sinovac is purportedly the only halal vaccination in the world.

However, this just raises more questions.

Since Malaysia’s approved vaccine will largely come from Pfizer-BioNtech, it would be safe to assume that only a small portion of the Muslim community would have access to Sinovac.

Would it be fair for the government to decide which Muslims get the halal vaccine, and which Muslims will get the alternate?

Halal certification aside, Malaysians still seem to be largely unaware on the specifics of our vaccination campaign.

While more than 50 countries have already rolled out their campaigns, the federal government has yet to come out with a confirmed plan.

Phyllis Catherine, a senior citizen from Rawang believes that the government needs to produce a comprehensive guide on the vaccine before the first batch arrives.

“We are pretty much in the dark at this point, we don’t even know the distribution blueprint for the vaccine. Since we are getting the vaccine later than others, this would be the perfect time for the government to introduce a complete manual of the vaccination procedure to help Malaysians understand the process better” says Phyllis.

General-Practitioner, Dr. Gurdeep Singh believes more transparent discussions need to be had over the mandatory aspect of the vaccine.

“If vaccinations are mandatory, what would happen if someone were to suffer severe or life threatening side-effects? Who will be responsible? What kind of compensation would the victim get, if any?

“And if the vaccines are not mandatory as has been suggested by the prime minister, what rights would employers have in dealing with unvaccinated employees?

“How about private businesses, would they be able to turn customers away who have yet to be vaccinated?

“These are scenarios that the government must thoroughly predict and then communicate their plans to us effectively.

“The worst thing that could happen is that the vaccines get here and there are further delays caused by half-baked plans,” Gurdeep said.