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MAKING THE VACCINE EFFORT A SUCCESS TOGETHER By Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Bin Sanusi, Head of Research, Parti Pejuang Tanah Air


Here is something that has been penned by my good friend Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Bin Sanusi, Head of Research, Parti Pejuang Tanah Air.  Akhram is the son of the late Tan Sri Sanusi Junid who I knew closely as well. We were all together in the “perjuangan” at one time. Still are. I do have some comments at the end of this.

  

Akhramsyah Bin Tan Sri Sanusi Junid


MAKING THE VACCINE EFFORT A SUCCESS TOGETHER 

6 June 2021 

The cornerstone of PN’s Covid-19 strategy has always been the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme or Program Imunisasi Covid-19 Kebangsaan (PICK). PICK is such a critical effort that the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, YB Khairy Jamaluddin was put in charge instead of YB Dato Seri Adham Baba, the Minister of Health. 

There have been challenges, but what now plagues it  is a lack of faith on PICK due to its under-performance against commitments to the Rakyat

This has been exacerbated by an active antivaxxer movement, particularly among Malays and Bumiputras. 

According to Our World in Data, a project under the UK based non-profit Global Change Data Lab,  backed among others by the University of Oxford, just over 2.2 Million Malaysians have received their first vaccine dose, and just over 1.1 Million, or 3.5% of the population, have been fully vaccinated as of 4 June 2021. This is less than 20% of the plan committed to by YB Khairy in April 2021

Undoubtedly, there has been an improvement of late, likely attributable to the Astra-Zeneca optional rollout program, nevertheless PICK is well behind relative to its own planning. 

In realising this, YB Khairy on 3 June 2021, announced a plan to ramp up PICK to enable application of 150,000 vaccine doses a day by June and 200,000 doses a day by July 2021. New vaccination facilities are also coming active across the country such as at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (MITEC). 

Unfortunately, all this was undermined just a day later when the Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI), Dato Seri Azmin Ali, in an interview with CNBC conveyed that vaccination rates will reach 200,000 doses a day by end of June and 400,000 doses a day by July

The MITI Minister then declared to the world that Malaysia would achieve herd immunity among its adult population by having 80% of our 26 Million adults vaccinated by August 2021

Not only is Dato Seri Azmin’s statements inconsistent with YB Khairy’s, but it is also mathematically unfeasible! 

A back of an envelope calculation shows that, with all Covid-19 vaccines approved in Malaysia to date needing 2 doses to achieve full vaccination, even if we can achieve 400,000 doses a day by July, herd immunity of our adult population can only be achieved by October 2021 at earliest! 

Such inconsistencies are grist for the mill for the greatest enemy of PICK, the antivaxxer movement that has now moved from social media advocacy to active campaigning amongst Tok Batins in the Orang Asli communities in Pahang. 

Malaysians need to be reassured by consistent messaging of a realistic and coherent plan for Covid-19. 

In addition to the inconsistencies, PICK’s focus is also undermined when Ministers over-react to views by experts on related issues such as the sanitisation dispute between Dato Seri Zuraida Kamaruddin and Dato Professor Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman.  

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Notwithstanding political disagreements, all sides of the political divide have clearly thrown their support behind the national vaccination program, but we must remain critical of its shortcomings. 

Such criticism is not for the sake of partisan politics but from a realisation that PICK must succeed to save Malaysian lives and to allow the Rakyat to begin to recover from the vagaries of the pandemic. 

Among other things, the success of PICK requires: 

1. Consistent and transparent communication of all aspects of the vaccine program, to address confusion as well as to curtail efforts to sow suspicion by our true enemy, the antivaxxer lobby that presents a clear and present danger to us all

To this end, there should be a single point of reference on all communications regarding PICK, with the entire government, including all Cabinet members, aligning with this single point of messaging. The only exception to this perhaps would be the PM. 

2. An honest achievable plan needs to be drawn up at last and shared with all stakeholders especially the Rakyat, indicating the realities facing our nation in crisis and not coloured by the necessities of business, investment or politics. The plan of course will undergo adjustments, we hope for the better, but likely to account for unforeseen drawbacks. Nevertheless, credibility needs to be restored by a plan all Malaysian can rely on being delivered. This is the starting point where expert resources should be drawn upon to assist, through the implementation, if it has not already. 

3. Begin open engagement of all experts in fields pertinent to the vaccine roll-out, not just medical, but pharmaceutical, logistics, communications and others with the aim of turning critics into advocates and allies of the program. 

The government, especially Government Ministers should not be defensive but rather listen openly, engage and accept criticism as well as recommendations from the likes of Datuk Dr Christopher Lee, Dato Dr Musa Nordin, Dato Dr Amar Singh, who are among many from just the medical profession where consultations can begin. 

4. Acknowledge that it may take as long as the beginning of next year before we achieve herd immunity. 

Hence, PICK needs to be supplemented by a cultural change program to mould safe behaviours among our communities, enabling the Rakyat to pursue livelihoods in the interim. 

Such a Safety Culture program goes beyond just communication and enforcement of SOPs that clearly have had shortcomings as well. 

Masking, Social Distancing and other behaviours should be second nature, allowing for the application of other safety tools such as ‘Safety Bubbles’ and the like. 

The challenge of beating Covid-19 and thriving in the New Normal continues, but with proper planning and being inclusive of all wishing to contribute regardless of what typically divides us, we will not only survive but begin thriving again together. 

My comments :

Thank you Akhramsyah. 

1. I think the person who really needs to read this and understand this is the Prime Minister YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.  Well actually the PM’s Pol-Sec  Datuk Mohd Nardin Awang and the PM’s SUSK Dato Marzuki Mohamed.

It is bad enough that the Minister of Defense makes unintelligble pronouncements about the MCOs every other day, or that the Minister of Health who is a medical doctor cannot be trusted with handling this crisis, or that the Minister of Science who is responsible for the vaccines is not even a Science graduate, but now the Minister of International Trade who has just returned empty handed from a trade mission to the empty desert lands is also making inconsistent statements about the vaccination program. 

Not only does this show gross incoherence in the Government but it shows that the Prime Minister cannot impose simple discipline among his Ministers.  Most certainly such contradictory and confusing statements from different Ministers has a bad effect not only on the Covid crisis but more damagingly it creates fear and confusion among the public about how the Covid crisis is going to be resolved by this government.

YAB Perdana Menteri really has to control his Ministers.  The suggestion by Akhram is very good – have just one single point of communication by just one Minister.

And let me advise the PM – the Minister must be someone who can inspire confidence in the people. A Minister declaring ‘I dont know‘ is not a legitimate answer.  

2.  The MySejahtera system is too slow.  Three of us registered with MySejahtera in February 2021. This is now June 2021 – FOUR MONTHS have gone by. Still no janji-temu from MySejahtera. This is not very sejahtera at all. 

(I have been given a date for the Astra Zeneca but the Mrs and my son could not register – despite the Astra Zeneca being opened for all ages). 

A friend’s wife who checks her MySejahtera daily was suddenly informed that her janji-temu was on that same day. So they rushed over to get her vaccinated.

3.   Now believe me when I say this, but the easiest and most effective way to handle the anti-vaxxers is to make fun of them. It is like a psychosis. The more you engage with them the more their psychosis. We really should not waste time and resources answering people who believe in hocus pocus, air jampi and similar rubbish. In any endeavour there will always be the fringe element that will not go away. 

It is critical that we really speed up the vaccination program.  I believe there are other conditions which are preventing the rakyat from being vaccinated quickly enough.

The RM5 billion or more that has been allocated will certainly attract plenty of flies. That is a lot of money. This is a life and death matter. Everyday now the toll exceeds 100 deaths per day.

Every corner of the country has a Klinik Kesihatan. There is a huge one within walking distance of my house. I am told Shah Alam has three. Use them instead. No need to pay rent to UMNO for using the PWTC.  The Science Minister said 1,000 GP clinics will be roped in. Why only 1,000? I believe there are over 7,000 private GPs in the country. Jangan lah pilih bulu lagi. But do it fast. 

People are afraid. I am afraid.  The recent case where a person died after getting infected by the Courier Delivery boy is really frightening. We thought Online Shopping would protect us better.

The economy cannot pick up if we are confined in our homes. Since January 2020 I have not visited my favorite mall to shop for clothes. But I have been wearing mostly shorts and T-shirts for the past year.

And finally people cannot be locked up inside their houses for ever. There will be other unexpected side effects.  

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