PM: Covid-19 immunisation programme will take one year to complete

PM: Covid-19 immunisation programme will take one year to complete
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KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 4): Malaysia's National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme will begin at the end of this month, to be rolled out in three phases up to February next year, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today.

In a nationally televised address, Muhyiddin said the country will be receiving its first batch of vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech, which have an effectiveness rate of 95%, sometime this month.

The programme aims to vaccinate 80% or 26.5 million people in the country. The first phase, to be carried out until April, will see the vaccination of 500,000 frontliners comprising medical and non-medical personnel.

"This phase is very important in order to protect our frontliners in the war against Covid-19," said Muhyiddin.

Following that, the second phase of the programme, between April and August, will see the immunisation of high-risk groups, namely senior citizens and vulnerable groups aged 60 years and above, who also face other conditions such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

The disabled are also included in the second phase of the national vaccination, with a total of 9.4 million individuals expected to be vaccinated under this phase.

Meanwhile, the third phase of the vaccination programme will cover those aged 18 and above, to be undertaken from May until February next year.

"This phase is important to ensure herd immunity against the virus and to control the overall spread of the pandemic," said the prime minister.

To facilitate the immunisation programme, more than 600 storage centres and delivery centres will be set up across the nation, utilising various infrastructure including public and private health facilities, stadiums, convention centres, public halls, as well as universities, as vaccination centres.

"Provisions in the Emergency Ordinance (Necessary Powers) 2021 will be used by the government to temporarily take over the halls and other facilities for the purpose of preparation in implementing the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme," he said, adding that the initiative will be the biggest vaccination programme the nation has ever seen.

Working with private healthcare sector

In the meantime, Muhyiddin said the government is ensuring that Malaysia's healthcare system remains ready and able to support the admission of Covid-19 patients, although it is reaching its breaking point.

The Covid-19 hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs) have reached full capacity, he said, and therefore the government will outsource the handling of patients to private hospitals.

"These include hospitals, clinics, labs, human resources, services and assets that are required to enhance the effectiveness in managing the pandemic. This outsourcing will be temporary in nature, until the end of the emergency period," Muhyiddin said.

The government has started working with private medical service providers to use hospitals, clinics, labs, expertise, services and human resources to alleviate the burden faced by the Ministry of Health (MoH), he added.

To this end, the cluster hospital concept will be expanded beyond the current MoH hospitals to include other public hospitals such as university hospitals, military hospitals as well as private hospitals, which will be used to treat Covid-19 patients.

To date, MoH has coordinated with 31 private hospitals for the outsourcing of medical services, for which the government has allocated RM27 million.

As of yesterday, the private sector had suggested the provision of 1,344 beds in regular wards and 65 beds at ICU wards.

Meanwhile, government and private testing labs are also being utilised to increase the testing capacity. Currently 68 private and public labs have the capacity to conduct 76,805 tests per day, which will be increased in the future.

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S Kanagaraju