More tents will be added outside the Semporna Community Hall Vaccination Centre (PPV) to accommodate the large crowds waiting for their Covid-19 vaccine, said Sabah Immunisation Programme director Shahelmey Yahya.
Shahelmey, who is also the Sabah Community Development and People's Wellbeing minister, said this in response to a Malaysiakini report yesterday on the large queues formed outside of the PPV, with many people being turned away at the end of the day.
“The district Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) will add more tents to accommodate the large crowds.
“There is only one PPV in Semporna. The rest (vaccination rollout) is done through outreach programmes as Semporna has many islands.
“(The PPV) is temporarily congested due to vaccinations now being open to 12- to 17-year-olds. More outreach programmes will be done in schools to reduce the congestion,” he said, adding that the community hall is only able to inoculate 800 to 1,500 people per day.
He also clarified that the Semporna PPV is open to everyone, including those who are currently stateless.
Yesterday, Semporna residents claimed that people were queuing from as early as midnight despite the PPV doors only opening at 8am, in hopes of getting into the queue.
During the day, there was reportedly a lack of social distancing measures and overcrowding around the PPV centre.
One of the residents even claimed to have waited for 15 and a half hours before getting her vaccine.
Sabah remains the state with the lowest vaccination rates, at 54.4 percent, according to data from the Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV).
About 10,000 people in the Sandakan area did not return to their local PPVs to get their second vaccine dose, according to a New Straits Times article.
When asked to comment on the matter, Shahelmey told Malaysiakini that this was merely part of the challenges faced by those in the health industry.
“Sometimes, human behaviour and mannerisms are the challenges we face. Their district CITF will continue to contact them for their second dose.
“I hope people will be more aware of the importance of receiving the vaccine for the safety of all,” he said.
More improvements needed
Meanwhile, Kampung Air resident and Sekolah Alternatif founder Mukmin Nantang, who was shocked at the sight of the Semporna community hall PPV yesterday, had met with Semporna health director Dr Shameer Khan Sulaiman to discuss possible solutions to the situation.
“I conveyed (to Shameer) all that was going on and discussed how a consensus could be formed for all of us to help each other provide the best management in the vaccination process.
“I went to the vaccination centre several times. Many are complaining about the lack of detailed information about vaccination which led to flocks of residents at the vaccination centre,” he said in a Facebook post yesterday.
Mukmin noted that while this incident was positive as it indicated that many people were interested in receiving the vaccine, there were a few things that could be improved on.
Among his suggestions included:
Onboarding more health ministry staff to Semporna’s vaccination programme.
Introducing more vaccination centres in villages as well as schools to prevent residents from swarming to one place.
Working closely with local NGOs and volunteers.
Using local media and existing advertisement boards to disseminate information on vaccinations.
Opening an inquiry booth in front of the Semporna community hall PPV.
Announcing the daily number of vaccines available.
Announcing concrete information on who is eligible to get the vaccines.
Providing a systematic waiting area for those queueing for the vaccine.