Criticising low Covid-19 vaccination rate, Anwar tells Putrajaya to let state governments, firms assist rollout

Soo Wern Jun
·3-min read
Senior citizens are pictured at the Caring Society Complex to receive their Covid-19 shot under phase two of Penang’s immunisation drive in George Town April 19, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Senior citizens are pictured at the Caring Society Complex to receive their Covid-19 shot under phase two of Penang’s immunisation drive in George Town April 19, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has urged the federal government to accept offers from its state counterparts and private firms to help expedite Malaysia’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Anwar said while these parties were both willing and able to assist in the National Immunisation Programme that he noted has only vaccinated under 3 per cent of the population so far.

However, he claimed the federal government has not been receptive to such offers.

“Some private businesses and foundations have informed me that their efforts to procure approved vaccines have been completely ignored by the Federal government.

“Their efforts have been met with delays and stonewalling by the responsible federal ministries,” he said in a statement today.

According to Anwar, he was informed that several state governments, private businesses and foundations were concerned with the slow implementation of the national programme and have sought to procure their own supply of National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) approved vaccines.

“For example, the Selangor government waited for months to gain necessary approval despite allocating funds to procure over two million doses for the people of Selangor.

“The Sarawak government faced similar delays in obtaining government approvals,” he said.

He pointed out that when the European Union vaccination rate was at Malaysia’s current level, the governments of its member nations engaged in a concerted push to encourage citizens to be vaccinated.

Anwar said the Perikatan Nasional appeared to be focused on the bureaucracy of the National Immunisation Programme, which was leading to unnecessary delays both in the procurement and administration of the vaccines.

He said there was no need for the federal government to be the sole authority to procure and deploy the vaccines, saying many state governments and companies were just as well — if not better — equipped to do so.

“There are private companies that are prepared to spend the money, even at a premium, to vaccinate their own workers and families.

“There are foundations and charitable organisations prepared to support vaccination efforts in local communities.

“There are hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of Malaysians who would be perfectly willing to pay a few hundred Ringgit out of pocket for a vaccination at a private hospital or clinic,” he said.

He stressed that if these actors were given the support and approvals they needed quickly, the limited supply that the federal government has at its disposal could be channeled directly to the poor, marginalised and most needy segments in society to ensure equitable, rapid access to the vaccine.

“Our vaccination rate could be two or three times the current, abysmally low rate,” he said.

At the same time, Anwar also called for an independent investigation under the auspices of Parliament into the causes of the procurement bottlenecks that have been experienced by the Federal government, state governments and private sector.

“Efficient vaccine procurement is something that we should have been well prepared for months ago. Our current performance is inexcusable,” he said.

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