Pakatan Harapan's Committee on Covid-19 vaccination has called on the Federal Government to prioritise the elderly, especially those in elderly care or nursing homes and include them in Phase 1 of the National Vaccination Programme.In a statement today, the Harapan committee said this move should be implemented by the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) which is jointly headed by Health Minister Dr Adham Baba and Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin."This should be done in order to reduce the overall healthcare burden and mortality rate," it said.The statement was signed by former health minister Dzulkifly Ahmad, MPs Dr Lee Boon Chye, Dr Kelvin Yii, Dr Hatta Ramli, Sim Tze Tzin and Ong Kian Ming, as well as the health excos of three Harapan, administered states - Selangor, Penang and Negeri Sembilan.The Harapan committee made this call due to the recent detection of new clusters involving elderly care and nursing homes, noting that residents' risk of death was "very high".It said that some 30,000 to 40,000 of the 2.3 million Malaysians above 65 were living across 1,500 care or nursing homes nationwide, operated by 8,000 workers."With the recent declaration of the clusters all around the country involving elderly nursing homes, including the recent Geronggang and Mas Merah Cluster in Sarawak which so far has reported 51 positive cases and one death and the "Jalan Cheras cluster" which reported 24 cases so far among others, there is a huge urgency in prioritising vaccination the elderly as they are often the most susceptible to more severe symptoms and possible death due to their age and other underlying diseases.""The problem of Covid-19 spread in care homes is not just limited to Malaysia but is also a global phenomenon," it added.The Harapan committee cited Canada, where about 80 percent of all Covid-19 deaths occurred at elderly care homes and the United Kingdom and the United States, where around 30-40 percent of all Covid-19 deaths occurred at elderly care homes. Elderly care home deaths account for about half of all deaths in 21 developed countries."Older people who are living in care homes are particularly vulnerable, not just due to their medical condition but also because of their cramped living conditions."That is why proactive steps are needed to protect not only the health of the residents but also the employees who care for them," it said.It added that vaccinating the elderly first would help reduce the number of hospitalised patients, which could lower the mortality rate and the burden on medical frontliners."Elderly care homes can be super-spreaders of the virus if proactive measures are not taken," they added.On Tuesday, Khairy said that of the 500,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to be administered in Phase 1, 300,000 would be reserved for medical frontliners.The other 200,000 vaccines would be allocated for non-medical frontliners like security personnel, welfare officials and politicians.Aside from those groups, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the government is open to considering requests from groups like the media and teachers to be vaccinated in Phase 1."We will take into consideration all those requests," he said when asked about the recent appeals by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP).Phase 1 of the programme will run until April.Phase 2 will run from April to August and involve 9.4 million people classified as high-risk groups. These groups include the differently-abled, those above 60 years old and those with comorbidities such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.Phase 3 will run from May to February 2022 for all other Malaysians aged 18 and above.
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