By Mariam Mokhtar
With Malaysians continuing to highlight their specific problems about getting vaccinated, this is where the minister in charge of the national vaccination program, Khairy Jamaluddin (KJ) should impress upon his boss, Mahiaddin Yassin, that parliament should be recalled.
Some Malaysians claim that KJ goes on the defensive each time an allegation is made about the vaccination program on social media, or is reported in the press.
KJ is aware that when parliament sits, all the issues about the vaccination rollout can be brought to the fore, and he can prove to dissenting politicians that the vaccination program is transparent, and should any problems remain, these issues can be discussed and hopefully, solutions found.
Instead, KJ has to ward off criticisms from various Opposition politicians that his vaccination program is riddled with inconsistencies.
The sultans of two states, Johor and Selangor, have already expressed concern that their subjects have not received sufficient doses of vaccine.
In early June, the Sultan of Selangor was shocked that his state had a low and "unfair" number of coronavirus vaccines.
On June 7, the cumulative positive cases stood at 203,520. The death toll was 961 people.
The sultan was further shocked that the Coronavirus Task Force had confirmed that it had only received a fifth of what was needed. In fact, the state had only received 615,201 vaccine doses and not the 2.9 million as previously claimed.
With the relatively high population of Selangor and its role as the highest contributor to the Malaysian GDP. the sultan's disapproval was shared by many. As the head of state of the most industrialized region, the sultan opined that it should be given priority when it came to the vaccine rollout.
KJ did not dare refute the sultan but when a state exco member for public health, Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud, expressed more or less the same sentiments about the lack of vaccines, KJ was quick to demolish her criticisms.
In fact, the rakyat expressed their dissatisfaction with the vaccine rollout at the end of last year.
Belgian Secretary of State Eva De Bleeker claimed that her country had paid RM60 per dose for Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, but it transpired that the Malaysian government claimed to have paid RM3 billion, which works out to 20 times the Belgian quote.
Was there any irregularity in the purchase of vaccine? Malaysians, including the Opposition politicians, want to know, but the answers have not been forthcoming.
The minister then said that the RM3 billion was used to purchase a range of vaccines and these were meant for 70% of the population.
Again, he reacts to our criticisms when all of this information should have been made easily and freely available.
KJ needs to address the other issues related to the uptake of vaccines. The poor, the elderly, the rural population and those who do not rely on the internet for their information, are not aware of the vaccines, what the vaccines do and where they can get the injections.
Many people are also skeptical because of the allegations which have spread about the halal-ness of the vaccine, allegations of possible infertility in the young and other wild claims that have spread.
Many old people rely on the normal methods of healthcare promotions, and when the vaccination program was organized in Kelantan, few people turned up. Perhaps, KJ could allay some of these fears with a more targeted information program. It does not help that most government departments are probably not working to capacity.
Others have said that the MySejahtera app does not work. Some people claim that they have been asked to pay for the vaccines when they should be free.
Other people claim that they have been offered options to jump the vaccine queues. So it appears that a vaccine delivery system that is supposed to be fair and based on need, has been corrupted. Being vaccinated comes at a price.
At one time, people were told they could select the vaccine of their choice, but it appears that this is now not the case.
On the whole, people are worried about the delay in the vaccination program, when some of our neighbors, in ASEAN, have fared better because they planned ahead.
A few people have said that they were told to cross the state to get their second dose. It is not that the people do not know which location to choose on google maps, but a glitch in the system, tells them to go to a location out of state.
As information is gleaned from one's identity card, some people were told to go to their place of birth for the vaccine, even though they moved from the area, decades ago.
Private General Practitioners (GPs) wrote to KJ to see if they could assist in the vaccination roll-out, earlier this year, but KJ failed to respond. When this was made public, KJ claimed that private clinics were not qualified to administer the vaccine, because of storage problems. This was another of KJ's foul-ups to cover-up his incompetence and lack of foresight.
KJ also dismissed billionaire philanthropist, Robert Kuok's offer to donate 2 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to Penang, calling it a scam.
Although foreigners will be included in the vaccination program, more emphasis has been made on undocumented migrant workers being arrested. Excluding these illegal workers. will render useless the effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. So, what is KJ's plan to resolve this humanitarian problem?
KJ should get his task force to look at all the issues before he blames the rakyat, or foreign nations, like the EU or the United States for hoarding vaccines.
The Americans have donated a substantial amount of vaccines, and if the American ambassador had not revealed this, many Malaysians would not have been aware. If the EU representative had not denied and corrected KJ's spurious claims about developed and richer nations preventing the third world and developing countries from purchasing these vaccines, the wool would have been pulled over our eyes, by KJ.
KJ should stop being defensive and just get to work and provide up-to-date and reliable information about the vaccine rollout.
1. Malaysiakini: Sultan Ibrahim disappointed with slow vaccination in Johor
2. Malaysiakini: Sultan shocked at low, 'unfair' vaccine supply for Selangor
6. Malaysiakini: Anwar: Why slow vaccine delivery from 'good friend' China?
7. YouTube: COVID-19 vaccine
12. Malaysiakini: Slow vaccination: Don't blame other countries, KJ
13. Malaysiakini: Vaccine arrival takes Covid-19 battle to the next level
15. Malaysiakini: Several PPVs ran out of vaccines due to high vaccination rate – KJ
16. Malaysiakini: Low vaccination rate – taking a closer look
17. New Straits Times: Penang wants Putrajaya to green light request to accept Covid-19 vaccine donation
18. Malaysiakini: The unfolding Malaysian vaccine anxiety
19. Malaysiakini: Almost 20pct of Kelantan seniors didn't turn up for vaccine appointment
20. Malaysiakini: Nearly 10,000 no-shows for Covid-19 vaccine in Kelantan
21. New Straits Times: Khairy: Msians not safe from Covid until all foreigners vaccinated too
(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)