PETALING JAYA: Medical groups have given the thumbs down to the government’s decision to vaccinate all MPs and state assemblymen in the first phase of the Covid-19 immunisation programme.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said elected representatives should receive the shots only in the third phase of the programme.
“Frontliners should be vaccinated first as per the plan in Phase 1, followed by senior citizens, high-risk individuals with chronic illnesses and persons with disabilities in Phase 2,” he told FMT.
“Also, we believe cleaners should be counted as frontliners. If they are not, they will be at risk as they handle contaminated materials.”
However, he said MMA’s stand on the matter would be different if the reason to vaccinate representatives was to allow Parliament and state assembly sittings to be held.
“This may be a good reason since issues on the management of Covid-19 should be debated in Parliament to ensure the situation is managed well.”
Dr Steven Chow, president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Association, said Malaysia should follow the rest of the world by first vaccinating healthcare workers and frontliners and then those most at risk of death.
He said the government should explain the scientific basis of its decision if there was one.
He said politicians’ frequent interaction with people did not make them unique. Some civil servants also had to frequently meet with the public, he added.
Chow also said politicians should have no need to be conducting political activities since Malaysia is under emergency rule and Parliament is suspended.
“They can always meet the people one-to-one, strictly follow SOPs and even wear full personal protective equipment if the need arises.”
Subramaniam said politicians should be setting an example by avoiding frequent social interactions with people.
“Like everyone else, they have to find ways to manage their duties and responsibilities under these new norms,” he said. “They should not be crisscrossing the country to meet people at this time.”
However, Galen Centre chief executive officer Azrul Khalib gave some support to the move, saying vaccinating key opinion leaders and decision-makers would show an endorsement of the vaccines.
He told FMT the success of the vaccination programme strongly depended on the public’s trust and support.
He noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) had yet to issue a specific guide on the issue of vaccine prioritisation.
“I would argue that politicians and individuals who work closely and interact with the public more frequently than the average person would be considered as being at increased risk and exposure to both getting infected and transmitting the infection,” he said.
“Getting vaccinated first is both a privilege and a recognition of risk.
“However, individuals working in service industries, such as hospital support services, like cleaners, sanitation workers and front desk staffers, should be considered for prioritisation as well,” Azrul said.
He acknowledged that not everyone with frequent public interactions would make the cut for the first phase due to the limited number of vaccine doses arriving.
“Someone has to be first in line, and that must be those working in the healthcare sector, people living with chronic diseases and individuals from vulnerable communities, such as those in custodial settings like prisons and detention centres.”
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced last week that MPs and assemblymen would be among the recipients of the Covid-19 vaccine under the first phase of the national Covid-19 immunisation programme.
Opposition MPs welcomed the announcement, with some of them saying this would leave Putrajaya with no excuse to continue blocking parliamentary meetings.
However, Bukit Tengah assemblyman Gooi Hsiao Leung of PKR spoke against the idea, saying more people on the front lines deserved to get vaccinated first.