SEREMBAN: The decision to allow interstate travel once 90% of the adult population is vaccinated against Covid-19 is the right one, as any further delay could lead to other problems, says Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
He said the authorities could not afford to wait until 90% of the total population is inoculated before allowing interstate travel, as suggested by some medical experts, because this could cause some Malaysians who have not met their loved ones for some time now to suffer mental and emotional stress.
“If we are to wait till 90% of the entire population is vaccinated, we will only be able to reopen state borders next year or in the middle of next year.
“Our vaccination programme has been quite widespread with almost 90% of the adult population and 65% of the total population fully vaccinated, and I feel it is the right time to do so.
“The time is also right as the vaccination rate for adolescents is also expected to reach 80% in the next one month,” he told reporters after visiting the Mawar Medical Centre here yesterday.
Khairy was responding to media reports quoting medical experts who said that at least 90% of the total population must be fully immunised before movement restrictions, which include interstate travel, are relaxed.
They said that lifting these restrictions before this milestone is reached could lead to a spike in Covid-19 cases.
They also said that having 65% of the total population vaccinated was not enough to protect those who have not received their jabs.
As at Oct 9, 89.4% of the adult population in the country had completed their Covid-19 vaccination.
Meanwhile, 70.4% of adolescents aged from 12 to 17 had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Khairy said it was also not possible to reopen state borders only after 90% of the entire population had been vaccinated because 20% of Malaysians are below 12 years old.
“There is no vaccine for these children yet. No regulators, including the US Food and Drug Administration, have approved any vaccine for them.
“So, we are comfortable with 90% of the adult population being vaccinated as further delaying this may bring about other problems,” he said.
Khairy acknowledged that with increased mobility after the reopening of state borders, which is expected in the next two to three days, there is a possibility of cases going up.
“This is only to be expected as there is no vaccine yet for children under 12.
“That is why it is very important that we continue with the vaccination process and also strictly adhere to all standard operating procedure (SOP),” he said.
He also said he believes that as long as Malaysians followed the TRIIS concept (Test, Report, Isolate, Inform and Seek), cases would be kept low.
“I have to trust Malaysians on this.
“Many have not met their loved ones, including their aged parents, for over a year.
“That is why the government said it felt comfortable in reopening state borders when 90% of the adult population is vaccinated,” he said, adding that those returning to their hometowns should also take extra precautions, such as conducting self-tests, and always observe the SOP, including wearing masks and physical distancing.
On a separate matter, Khairy said his ministry would meet with the Election Commission to discuss the SOP that should be put in place in case Melaka has its state elections.
“I briefed the Cabinet on this yesterday – let us wait for their decision if the state elections is to be held or deferred.
“If the Cabinet feels the state elections can proceed, then we will discuss the SOP with the EC,” he said.
To another question, Khairy said he would speak with insurance companies on the criteria they use to pick private hospitals to be on their panel.
“I will have an engagement session with these companies. There has to be some clarity on how hospitals qualify to become panels for them,” he said, adding that the process needs to be transparent and fair.
Earlier, Mawar Medical Centre chairman Datuk Lee Tian Hock in his speech said smaller private hospitals were facing difficulties getting on the panels of insurance companies as they were told they should have at least 200 beds and 20 resident consultants to be eligible.
Lee said that all ministry-licensed private hospitals whose doctors were registered with the Malaysian Medical Council should automatically be on the panels of insurance companies so that patients could seek treatment at any such facility.
He said this was important as private hospitals required high capital investment and were highly dependent on being included in insurance panels, which constitute between 60% and 70% of their overall income.
Earlier, Khairy was taken on a tour of the Mawar Medical Centre where he officially opened its 18-bed paediatric ward called “Wonderland”, built at a cost of RM1.2mil.
He also launched the hospital’s latest MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine, which cost RM4.5mil, and its ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System certification.