USM TO BE PART OF NATIONAL IMMUNISATION PROGRAMME

USM KUBANG KERIAN, KELANTAN, 8 February 2021 – 5,358 frontliners from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) are expected to be involved in the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme in the effort to control the COVID-19 outbreak in the country by way of early vaccination.

Frontliners from USM who would be involved in the programme will come from the Health Campus (4,673), Main Campus (287) and the Advanced Medical and Dental Institute or IPPT (398).

This was said by the Deputy Director of Operations, Hospital USM, Professor Dr. Mohd Imran Yusof at the Town Hall: Current Developments on COVID-19 Vaccine session organised by USM Health Campus held via Webinar and which was viewed by approximately 3,830 viewers recently.

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Mohd Imran, who was invited as a panellist in the session said that, looking back in history, the spread of diseases such as diphtheria, polio and tetanus had been successfully halted through vaccines, and a vaccine is now seen as the only way that has been proven to be effective in the control of infectious diseases.

“The vaccine is our only hope of stopping and flattening the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been proven during the third phase of clinical studies that the vaccine has shown excellent results in its role in reducing the COVID-19 rate of infection to those who have received the vaccine compared to those who were administered with placebo,” he said, referring to the randomized, placebo-controlled phase III clinical trial, which is the standard requirement before considering approval of any newly developed vaccine.   

Thus he said, it’s only natural that the government will go ahead and launch the immunisation programme at the national level in order to control the spread of the pandemic in the country, which is expected to begin at the end of February.

“Most likely in the fourth week of February, a vaccination programme will be launched on a grand scale, involving almost all of the hospitals/health facilities under the Ministry of Health Malaysia (KKM), university hospitals, military hospitals and other health facilities which will be identified later throughout the country,” he added.

According to Mohd Imran, the government is aware that there are challenges that will demand attention when the vaccination programme is implemented; the first will be regarding the COVID-19 vaccine specifically as the vaccine selected for the programme (vaccine by Pfizer/BioNTech) will utilise the new, mRNA technology.

“Its side effects and effectiveness are still being debated by various parties at present; in addition to the vaccine selected being said as of having a ‘high profile’/sensitive with regard to logistics and this brings another challenge to the distributors of the vaccines in terms of delivery and distribution; and also on the issue of how far society is willing to accept the use of the vaccine to mitigate the outbreak of COVID-19,” he said.

“The next challenge will be, as the vaccination programme will be held on a large scale and involving big numbers – the healthcare staff, available health facilities and different levels of society who will be receiving the vaccines – it thus requires thorough preparation, planning and coordination among the various government agencies especially KKM and Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) together with the designated teams at the receiving facilities and vaccine providers throughout the country,” he explained further.

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He went on to say that at USM, the vaccination programme will be divided into two phases; the first phase involving the frontliners and the second phase involving the high-risk groups (patients comprising of senior citizens and those having chronic diseases).

With regard to identifying the recipients, three methods will be used by USM which are 1) ‘line listing’ catering to the frontliners; 2) via the MySejahtera apps for high-risk patients; and 3) via manual registration for high-risk patients who don’t have a smartphone and to qualified foreign citizens.

He said that at Hospital USM more specifically, for Phase 1, the Vaccination Cohort Principle will be used, where the immunisation exercise will be done in stages to identified staff (a certain number) from each department at one time, and which will be done separately every 3 days among the different cohorts.

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“This is to ensure that the hospital services will not be disrupted if there are complications/side-effects (AEFI) faced by the staff after being vaccinated.  

“To summarise, this immunisation programme is going to be very challenging and all parties need to be ready as it requires a smooth coordination among all the agencies to ensure its success.

“Good cooperation is also required and is essential between the provider and the receiver of the vaccine in ensuring the effectiveness of the vaccines, as well as to avoid wasting the vaccines in the effort to control the spread of the pandemic,” he said.

The webinar session was held on Facebook live at the Hospital USM Network: https://www.facebook.com/HospitalUSM/live/ and the Youtube channel USM Kesihatan: https://youtu.be/MjhoBOr_f4o .

Four other panellists also shared their expert opinions at the townhall session which include the Director of Health Campus/Director of Hospital USM, Professor Dato’ Dr. Ahmad Sukari Halim; Executve Director of USAINS Medical Group, Professor Dato’ Dr. Mafauzy Mohamed; Dean of School of Health Sciences, Professor Dr. Norazmi Mohd Nor; and Senior Lecturer from the School of Health Sciences who is also on the Syariah Advisory Panel, Hospital USM, Dr. Mujahid Bakar.

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Translation: Mazlan Hanafi Basharudin

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