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Health advocacy group urges Putrajaya to include pharmacist, general practitioners to support upcoming vaccine drive

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(From left) Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin at the launch of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme Handbook at the Perdana Putra Building in Putrajaya February 16, 2021. — Bernama pic
(From left) Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin at the launch of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme Handbook at the Perdana Putra Building in Putrajaya February 16, 2021. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 16 — The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy has called for Putrajaya to leverage pharmacists and general practitioners (GPs) to act as immunisers to bolster the upcoming nationwide vaccine drive. 

In a statement to the press, the independent public policy research and advocacy organisation said the guidebook to the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme provides a general overview of the scale and labour involved in its efforts to immunise the nation against Covid-19. 

“We hope that the government will see this programme as an opportunity to mobilise and work with the private sector, specifically pharmacists and GPs, to be immunisers who are a vital part of the programme’s workforce.

““With the government targeting 126,000 people to be vaccinated per day, this should be an all-hands-on-deck approach. The government health system should not and cannot be expected to shoulder the burden alone, especially when it is dealing with the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic at the same time,” said Azrul Mohd Khalib, chief executive of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy. 

Winnie Ong, a research officer and registered pharmacist at the Galen Centre added that an efficient rollout to combat the pandemic involving pharmacists and GPs, will free up doctors and nurses for treatment, and draw on their existing capacity in patient care, health education and vaccination advocacy. 

“Compared to front liners in Phase 1, who are attached to their work stations, reaching the target population distributed far and wide across the community in Phase 2 will be a formidable challenge. For the most vulnerable to severe illness  —  at least 7.5 million of the elderly, the disabled, and people with selected chronic illnesses — completing the two-dose regimen is an urgent task. Every delayed vaccination will cost lives,” Winnie said.

She added that the deployment of pharmacists and GPs to vaccination sites could be one mechanism to scale up the workforce to deliver the estimated 75,000  —  150,000 jabs required a day. 

“The other is to implement pharmacy-based vaccination programmes, where trained and accredited community pharmacists deliver vaccinations on their premises.

“Alongside GP clinics, this makes it more convenient for eligible residents nearby to access their jabs, prevent overcrowding of vaccination sites, also allowing the public sector to have enough resources for outreach to remote pockets and aged care homes. Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Johor — accounting for over 60 per cent of the country’s community pharmacies in 2016 — are populous states in which such an approach can increase the speed of coverage,” Winnie emphasised.

She further said that at least 36 countries around the world depend on pharmacists as part of its immunisation workforce, according to the International Pharmaceutical Federation data in 2020. 

Earlier today, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that Malaysia will receive the Pfizer-Biontech Covid-19 vaccine this Sunday or five days earlier than previously scheduled.

At the launch of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Plan today, he also said the rollout of Malaysia’s vaccination programme will start on February 26 on a voluntary basis. 

The National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme will roll out in three phases, targeting 80 per cent of the population who will be vaccinated for free.

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