LETTERS: The last week of April every year is celebrated as World Immunisation Week since 2012, with the participation of more than 180 countries and territories worldwide.
It is fitting that the theme for this year is "Vaccines bring us closer", addressing the urge to facilitate greater global participation in immunisation to foster the value of vaccination in bringing citizens together and improving the health and welfare of everybody, anywhere, at all times.
These goals supplement established disease-specific goals, broader health goals, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG3 focuses on maintaining safe lives and encouraging wellbeing for everyone and is the harmonisation and merger of multiple health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in effect from 2000 to 2015.
Despite growing awareness about the Covid-19 vaccines, and although the immunisation programme is currently being introduced in phases from February this year to February next year, it has remained at a superficial level, as the vaccines' significance, benefits and how they work are unclear to many.
A policy brief titled "National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme", published by the Secretariat of The Special Committee for Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV), has highlighted the issues surrounding Covid-19 vaccine access and timeline distribution to Malaysians.
This concern is expected to be widely felt during Hari Raya Aidilfitri this year, as people still hope to return to their hometowns amid the pandemic. It is expected that things might get worse as the majority have not been immunised yet.
"As we know, interstate travel is one of the contributing factors to the cluster of new Covid-19 positive cases and a total of 32 'back home' and interstate clusters were recorded. For example, in Sarawak, it used to be a green state and the best in the country in terms of control but due to village return activities, a longhouse became a cluster and now Sarawak has many red and orange zones," said Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
While the world prepares national vaccination plans to contain the pandemic, nations must also band together to counteract misinformation regarding Covid-19 vaccines and anti-vaccination propaganda. While Covid-19 appears to be an unbeatable foe, the lack of awareness and the dangers of misinformation are real, and they represent a setback to the progress that has already been created.
Overcoming the problem of the low number of Malaysians who participated in National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP) necessitates a clear approach at the grassroots stage. This issue involves all levels of society.
The government should try to focus on assisting Malaysians in a balanced way, whether one lives in the cities or those in rural areas.
The government's NIP plan should provide a comprehensive education guide on how to obtain and distribute the Covid-19 vaccine more widely as there are a lot of Malaysians who need support and guidance, now more than ever, in deciding to get vaccination.
Acknowledging that the educators are playing a vital role in the awareness of the significance of the Covid-19 vaccines, more opportunities for professional guidance and training programmes should be enhanced to equip the educators with better and more accurate knowledge about dealing with this matter.
Parents and families too play an important role in providing knowledge and understanding about the NIP to themselves and their children by maintaining a positive presence and a healthy learning atmosphere.
In that sense, we should take the caring approach towards all by continuously encouraging people to register for the NIP via MySejahtera App and other platforms.
International Islamic University Malaysia
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times