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26 Feb 2021

KUALA LUMPUR: Those who fail to attend the appointment to take the COVID-19 vaccination without reasonable grounds can be prosecuted, said Health director-general (DG) Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said this was to avoid wastage as the diluted COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could not be stored for use on other days due to its shelf life of not more than six hours.

"Even on the day of surgery, 15 per cent of cases are not present for the surgery. Absence, including for the scheduled vaccination is a 'waste of resources and manpower' because we have done all preparations.

"Action can be taken if (the person is) not present. As in other countries, those who cut the queue for vaccines (also) can be fined. For now, we have not thought about what kind of action (we will take)...but something can be done," he said.

He said this during a virtual media involvement session today, which was also attended by Health deputy DG (Research and Technical Support) Datuk Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim as moderator.

He said those who could not attend the appointment, especially for the second dose, should inform at least three days ahead so that the new date can be scheduled.

"If there is a last-minute cancellation, we will need to find a way so that the vaccine is simply not wasted...there may be a 'waiting list' so we can give it to others. Instead of being discarded, we may be able to give it to frontliners who have not yet had the opportunity to take the vaccines, including our medical staff," he said, reminding Malaysians to appreciate, and not waste, the vaccines.

Dr Noor Hisham said the government also did not intend to commercialise the COVID-19 vaccine in the country by allowing private companies to sell them.

He said no company is licensed to sell it, adding that the Ministry of Health (MOH) itself will supply the vaccines to all hospitals including private hospitals, which would be given to the people for free.

"Companies that sell the vaccines sell it 'directly' to the government and not to private companies. We will not allow its (vaccine) commercialisation as otherwise the rich will get the vaccines first and others will have to wait.

"Interpol also informed us that fake vaccines already that's why after someone is vaccinated, they need to scan the 'barcode' so that they will know which vaccine they have taken with the serial number," he said.

In the meantime, Dr Noor Hisham said the standard operating procedures (SOPs) may be relaxed including inter-state restrictions and even the country's borders if at least 70 to 80 per cent of the people in the country have been vaccinated.

He said if the people's compliance with the SOPs and vaccine intake goes hand in hand, group immunity is expected to be successfully established in the country in the next six to nine months.

"Currently, we cannot allow flexibility, including 'immunity passports', to leave the country. If our country and other countries have achieved group immunity, we will probably consider it but we need proof," he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham said the MySejahtera application was the only official government application used for vaccine registration.

Through the application as well, he said the public can inform if they have symptoms or side effects after receiving the shots.

Dr Noor Hisham also said he is looking into the need to create a 'dashboard' in the application to display the latest number of those taking the jabs.

"Right now our data is well maintained and all use MySejahtera…this application officially collects data and we can use this data in the dashboard to inform the people," he added.

Meanwhile, MOH Disease Control Division senior principal assistant director Dr A. Maheshwara Rao, who also participated in the media involvement session, said so far more than a million people had registered with MySejahtera to get the vaccines and the ministry was targeting almost 300,000 registrations a day.

According to him, the 'add dependent' function in the application is expected to be released on MySejahtera in the second week of March, allowing users to register family members, especially their elderly parents. - Bernama


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