KUCHING: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg had instructed that a committee be set up to plan the implementation of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
“Sarawak is very big, and logistics need to be properly arranged so that not only those in the urban areas will get the vaccine, but also the rural communities,” he said in an interview titled ‘Covid-19 Immunisation Programme in Sarawak’ with host, senior fellow of the Malaysian Council of Professors (MPN) Dr Jeniri Amir, broadcast on TVS’ Twenty30 programme on Monday night.
Uggah said the Ministry of Health (MoH) also conducted a dry run to Belaga last month because the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needed to be stored in an ultra-cold freezer at -75°C.
“In Sarawak, seven locations have been identified for storage and the vaccine will be kept there in the freezers, but we cannot place them there for more than five hours. This means that within five hours, the vaccine must be administered to humans.”
Uggah, who is also the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) chairman, added during the committee meeting, the Divisional Disaster Management Committees had suggested locations where people should get the vaccine and the type of vehicles suitable to be used to transport the vaccine in order to reach the targeted areas.
“There is a need for more manpower to look after security and to further control the situation. And as Covid-19 is still around, physical distancing also needs to be observed.
“…and we also look at the problems faced on vaccine implementation. In the United States, one of its citizens had to wait for seven to eight hours just to get the vaccine due to long queues. Therefore, this is the area we want to avoid.”
Asked whether there would be any challenges when carrying out the vaccine programme, Uggah said as this process was something new, those administering the vaccine shots would need to adapt as there were certain SOPs to follow.
“The second challenge is how to make sure that the vaccine will be delivered to the rural areas, which could be as far as the Indonesian border, safely.
“Therefore, the types of vehicles to be used to transport the vaccines need to be carefully arranged.”
Uggah hoped that in Sarawak, the MoH’s guidelines of allowing those above 18 years old to be vaccinated could be followed.
“In Sarawak, we have a population of 2.01 million, but the decision has also been made to give the vaccines to non-Malaysians in Sarawak, which also include foreign workers.”
He added, the vaccination programme in the state would be done in three phases, with some 97,000 frontliners to be vaccinated first, followed by high-risk groups, and the general public.