Be transparent with plans, strategies

Dr Kelvin Yii
Dr Kelvin Yii

KUCHING: Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii has reiterated his call for the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) to be transparent with their plans and strategies in handling Covid-19 in Sarawak, including laying out a clear policy on the booster shot.

He said that merely talking about living with Covid-19 is somewhat premature and does not instil confidence in the public when cases are still so high.

“Sarawak’s weekly Covid-19 infections saw an increase of almost 300 percent or increased threefold the past weeks — from 7,423 cases in the week of Aug 12 to 18 to 21,940 cases from Sept 2 until 8.

“At the same time, Covid-19 fatalities in Sarawak also saw a sharp 200 percent increase in the same period of time — from 20 deaths to 60.

“It is to be noted that more than 50 percent of 27 people in Sarawak, whose deaths were reported on Sept 5 to 6, had been fully vaccinated.

“That is why, I have cautioned SDMC and MOH from shifting into the endemic (living with Covid-19) phase in Sarawak pre-maturely without first addressing some of the public health measures,” he said in a Facebook post yesterday (Sept 13).

Dr Yii reiterated thus there is need to invest into the public health system to continue the required find, test, trace, isolate and support (FTTIS), and coming up with a comprehensive National Testing Plan which includes frequent testing at workplace, factories, schools, and all social events.

On this, he explained this was more comprehensive and holistic rather than the plan to just test those who are symptomatic.

“More importantly, there has to be a clear policy on a booster shot especially for frontliners and high-risk groups especially in view of the waning effectiveness of the vaccines over time, which we have seen in other countries,” he stressed.

In Sarawak, he said about 77.7 percent of fully vaccinated people in Sarawak had received Sinovac, followed by Pfizer-BioNTech (18.7 percent) and AstraZeneca-Oxford (2.4 percent).

“If we compare this with Labuan which has relatively recovered after having one of the highest prevalence of cases per population due to an outbreak of Delta before this, 89 percent is vaccinated with Pfizer,” he said.

He added a recent study in Thailand that showed Sinovac’s efficacy against Delta dropped to 48.33 percent six months after the second dose, while a real-world study in the United Kingdom showed that protection from Pfizer declined to 74 percent after five to six months and for AstraZeneca, protection dropped to 67 percent after four to five months.

“That is why I hope the government would ensure all these steps are in place including my previous recommendations before making the shift purely to full endemic-style strategy.

“If we do it too soon without preparing other fundamentals, I am concerned it can still trigger a new wave especially among our high-risk groups and those yet to be vaccinated, including children, and overwhelm the hospitals and even ICU capacity,” said Dr Yii.