KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 — The vaccination rate and negotiation process, as well as procurement of COVID-19 vaccine are among the issues raised by several MPs during the debate in the Special Sitting of the Dewan Rakyat today.
Entering its third day, the atmosphere of the conference today appeared to be calmer compared with the previous day, with 23 MPs, comprising 10 from the government, 11 from the opposition and two Independents, taking part in the debate session.
Earlier, the Special Session began with a briefing by the Coordinating Minister of the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK), Khairy Jamaluddin, who said that the country’s immunisation programme thus far saw the percentage of Malaysians receiving at least one dose of vaccine surpassed some developed countries such as Japan, Australia , South Korea and New Zealand.
A majority of MPs also praised the government’s move to increase the vaccination rate to more than 500,000 doses a day, but questioned the delay in obtaining vaccines compared with other countries.
Among them, Yeo Bee Yin (PH-Bakri), who pointed out that the death toll due to COVID-19 also increased despite the high vaccination rate.
“We need to know that from May until today, more than 6,500 people have died, and among them, more than 5,500 are those with comorbidities, some have registered for the vaccine but they were infected with COVID-19 and died before being vaccinated,” she said.
Meanwhile, Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail (PH-Kulim Bandar Bharu) wants the country to focus on long-term COVID-19 vaccination efforts, apart from ensuring that Malaysia is given priority in obtaining vaccines from manufacturers if there is a threat of new variants.
“Once we ‘engage’ with the vaccine manufacturer, we have to have a clause that states that if there is a threat of a new variant and the vaccine manufacturer does an ‘innovative upgrade’, we, who have purchased from them, be given priority…I was made to understand that we have that clause with Pfizer only, with the other five missing. This thing should not be overlooked,” he said.
Dr Maszlee Malik (Independent-Simpang Renggam) raised the issue of vaccination in the education ecosystem, including to educators, school staff and students, besides proposing that vaccines be given in schools without requiring them to attend the vaccination centre (PPV).
Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) and Tan Sri Noh Omar (BN-Tanjong Karang) asked for the facilities at PPVs to be improved, the proposal to ‘inject first, register later’, which needs to be expanded in rural areas or to those without internet access, was also suggested by Datuk Mohd Azis Jamman (Warisan-Sepanggar) and Datuk Wilson Ugak Anak Kumbong (GPS-Hulu Rajang).
Khairy, during the winding up session, among other things, said that negotiations with vaccine manufacturing companies, especially Pfizer, had begun for Malaysia to finalise the procurement of vaccines for 2022, especially booster injections and pediatric vaccines.
Apart from that, he said that the government did not intend to make vaccination compulsory because public health programmes in Malaysia were voluntary.
“All vaccinations are voluntary in Malaysia and we do not want to force people using the law to accept the vaccine. What we hope will increase the number of registrations is the freedom or facilities that will be given to those who are fully vaccinated; this will be announced by the Prime Minister,” he said.
During the last minutes of the winding up session, however, it was a bit noisy when several opposition MPs rose to ask for the time to be extended, including Hannah Yeoh (PH-Segambut), Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis (Warisan-Kota Belud) and Datuk Ngee Khoo Ham (PH-Beruas).
They expressed dissatisfaction with the limited time because vaccine-related matters are important and the minister is ready to explain and answer all questions raised by MPs.
However, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun, asked them to sit down and allow Khairy to continue.
“Be quiet for a moment, please! What power do I have to continue this session? I said (under Rule 37 (2)), I cannot allow anyone to interrupt because I want to finish the session but still interruptions… then said that I refuse to give (extra) time,” Azhar said, then asking Khairy to submit a written reply within 10 working days as the winding-up session has ended.