Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Letting private hospitals procure vaccines could speed up herd immunity, group says

Malaysia currently ranks fourth in Asean for Covid-19 inoculation, behind Singapore, Cambodia, and Indonesia.

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The Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) is urging the government to allow private institutions to procure their own Covid-19 vaccines to speed up the inoculation process and achieve early herd immunity.

Speaking at a virtual event titled “Efficient Covid vaccination rollout in Asean” by Hospital Management Asia, APHM president Dr Kuljit Singh said private hospitals have yet to be granted permission by the government to procure vaccines on their own due to the global shortage of jabs and equity concerns.

“We have made many requests to the government that in order to get early herd immunity, the private sector should be allowed to procure its own vaccines,” he said, adding that the procurement process should start as soon as possible to secure vaccines given the short supply.

But he also noted concerns about equity should private hospitals be allowed to source their own vaccines.

“They are worried that if the private sector is allowed to buy its own vaccines, there might be a shortage of vaccines for public consumption.

“But we have been communicating with the manufacturers and we can get the vaccines which still need approval from the government,” he said.

Statistics from “Our World in Data” show that Malaysia currently ranks fourth in Southeast Asia for the total number of vaccinated individuals behind Singapore, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Malaysia has administered over 1.2 million doses covering up to 2.2% of the population.

Meanwhile, Singapore – which leads Southeast Asian countries in vaccine rollout – has administered about 2.2 million doses covering 23.3% of its population.

This is followed by Cambodia which has administered over 1.7 million Covid-19 jabs, covering up to 7.6% of its population.

Indonesia, the largest country in the region, ranks third with about 17.3 million doses administered. It has covered 4.1% of its population with the first dose.

Speaking at today’s event, Leona Karnali, who heads the International Relations Department at the Indonesian Private Hospital Association, said private hospitals in Indonesia are working hand in hand with the health ministry to administer Covid-19 doses although all the vaccines are procured by the government.

“The government has promised to give vaccines for free for all Indonesians, and to accelerate the process, private hospitals are called in,” she said.

In Indonesia, more than 60% of all hospitals are privately owned and play a crucial role in strengthening the country’s healthcare system and infrastructure especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, in Thailand and the Philippines, the governments have allowed private hospitals to procure their own vaccines to speed up the inoculation process.

Dr Rene De Grano, president of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, and Dr Pongpat Patanavanich, from the Private Hospital Association of Thailand, said their governments had given the green light for private sectors to procure vaccines following the surge in Covid cases, subject to certain conditions.

In Malaysia, the national immunisation programme is entirely government-operated.

Although private hospitals will be part of the vaccination process starting next month, Kuljit voiced hope that they will continue to be included in negotiations with the government to efficiently tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We were told that we might only get approval to buy our own vaccines at the end of the year but that is a bit too late.

“We would like to inoculate the economic frontliners and others who are waiting to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” he said.

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