The early vaccination of hotel industry workers in Pahang has apparently caught National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin by surprise.
In a statement last Wednesday, he said the federal task force only learnt of its state counterpart’s decision to vaccinate this group after the fact. He has since written to the state government to say that the listing of groups eligible to receive the vaccine early is a federal-level decision.
It is good that the line of authority in this matter has been clarified. This will prevent accusations that queue-jumping may be taking place in the vaccine rollout.
Tighter coordination between the federal and state task forces is needed to ensure that the vaccination programme is being executed in line with national health priorities.
Given that every industry is anxious to return to a pre-pandemic level of activity, the demand to get the vaccine as soon as possible is expectedly very high.
In such a situation, the authorities responsible have the important duty of ensuring that lobby groups do not influence the vaccine distribution system to the detriment of those at the highest risk.
In reply to the criticism, the Pahang state disaster management committee has explained that its decision to increase the allocation for hospitality workers from 1,575 to 3,036 doses was due to the poor response from eligible recipients in the transport sector.
In a statement, the committee said the move was also aimed at spurring the state’s tourism and transport sectors.
It is difficult to understand this rationale in the light of restrictions that are in place on inter-district and inter-state travel.
Moreover, the special committee for guaranteeing access to the Covid-19 vaccine has yet to discuss the question of whether the ban would be lifted, according to Khairy.
That would only be considered after a sizeable portion of the population is vaccinated, which is towards the year-end.