HULU LANGAT, March 31 — A middle-aged woman turned back from walking into a pasar malam at Taman Impian Ehsan in Bangi here, after she saw a Covid-19 vaccination registration counter at the entrance.
In Bangi, a multiracial constituency in Selangor, MP Ong Kian Ming made a disturbing observation where only half of constituents approached by volunteers to register for coronavirus inoculation agreed to get vaccinated.
“Two days ago, we did one registration that was a pasar malam and we told the people if they want to go to pasar malam, they will need to go through our (vaccine registration) counter first,” Kajang local councillor Nor Zulaila Abd Ghani told CodeBlue.
“And there’s one lady, she wanted to buy something in pasar malam, but when we told her she needs to register, then she said, ‘okay thank you then, I won’t go to the pasar malam’ because she said she’s never been vaccinated before.”
Kajang Municipal Council local councillors, along with Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming, have set up around 10 vaccine registration counters in the Bangi federal constituency since early March. Overall, since the vaccine registration exercise started, they have managed to register around 400 people in total for Covid-19 vaccination.
Nor Zulaila, who has been actively assisting people to register for Covid-19 inoculation, said that the response towards the vaccine is different in various areas.
Among the areas that Kajang local councillors have conducted Covid-19 vaccination registration programmes and the number of people registered at each place include Laman Niaga Bandar Sungai Long morning market (136 people), Sg Chua morning market (50 people), Sg Ramal Luar mosque (35 people), Taman Impian Ehsan night market (30 people), Sg Chua night market (30 people), Section 1 Bandar Teknologi Kajang flats (30 people), Cheras Jaya night market (15 people), Bandar Baru Bangi (15 people), Desa Baiduri public hall (eight people), and Taman Sutera Kajang flats (eight people).
Volunteers at a Covid-19 vaccination registration counter in Bandar Baru Bangi on March 27, 2021. Picture by Ashswita Ravindran.
“Previously, we did at Sungai Chua, mostly elderly. So, they just want to know what’s the effect of vaccines. If they have high blood pressure, hypertension, can they get the vaccine?” Nur Zulaila said.
Meanwhile, in Bandar Baru Bangi, people want to register for Covid-19 vaccination, but they are unaware of how to go about it.
“Whoever has the MySejahtera app, we will use their phone (to register). Those who don’t have, we will help to register manually using our phone via the website,” Nor Zulaila added.
Nor Zulaila said that these groups of people generally agree to register to get vaccinated after listening to explanations given by the volunteers.
However, the local councillor said there are some who still refuse to sign up, despite listening to volunteers’ explanation that if they don’t get vaccinated, the elderly and those with comorbidities face a higher risk of developing severe Covid-19 if infected.
“Those who really don’t want to register are those who are really old, 80 and above, they said later want to get the vaccine will be difficult,” Nur Zulaila said, referring to an observation made during a vaccine registration drive at Kampung Baru, Sungai Chua.
She said most of them were from the Chinese community, who believed it would be difficult for them to get transport to vaccination centres. It is unclear how this perception arose as the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) has yet to announce the list of vaccination sites.
Volunteers also noted vaccine hesitancy among some people who believed rumours claiming that a nurse in Sungai Petani, Kedah, died from getting a Covid-19 vaccine. The Ministry of Health (MOH) disputed news reports linking her death to the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, saying that an autopsy showed the woman had died of a heart attack.
Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming at a Covid-19 community screening in Taman Bukit Belimbing, Seri Kembangan on March 27, 2021. Picture by Ashswita Ravindran.
Bangi MP Ong told CodeBlue that based on his observation during Covid-19 vaccine registration among the Chinese community, some said they are not registering because they can’t choose their shot in the public vaccination programme.
“In a Chinese area, one issue that has come up is that Chinese prefer the Sinovac vaccine. So when you don’t have a choice, some of them may turn off,” Ong said.
In terms of technical issues like not knowing how to register using the MySejahtera app, Ong said it’s a simple task for his volunteers to help with.
Ong also said volunteers in his constituency only manage to persuade half of the people approached to register for Covid-19 vaccination. Some people will walk away when asked to register for their jabs.
However, the DAP lawmaker said this should not be a reason for the government to take punitive measures, such as setting a registration deadline or imposing fines on those who don’t register for coronavirus vaccination.
“We are not at the stage yet. We actually need to deploy more resources, more manpower and have this whole of society, whole of government approach,” Ong said.
“I think the minister, Khairy, is doing a good job but he is just one man. We need to deploy a lot of ministries, non-governmental organisations, volunteers, to really go out and send this message,” he added, referring to Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
Khairy told a press conference Monday that only two million people aged above 60 or with underlying medical conditions have registered on MySejahtera for Covid-19 vaccination. This comprises only about 22 per cent of the government’s targeted nine million people for Phase Two of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK).
As such, CITF will bring forward vaccination appointments of the general public who have already registered for their Covid-19 jabs to as early as next month or May.
As of March 29, only 7.3 million people have registered on MySejahtera for their Covid-19 shots, comprising about 30 per cent of the adult population aged 18 and above. In Selangor, about 42 per cent of adults have registered for vaccination. CITF did not make available more granular data at the district or sub-district level.