Source Anwar Ibrahim
While the Coordinating Minister has blamed rich countries for cornering the market and thus limiting Malaysia's access to vaccine supply, I have been informed that several state governments, private businesses and foundations, responding to the government's incompetence in handling the pandemic, have sought to procure their own supply of NPRA approved vaccines.
Their efforts have been met with delays and stonewalling by the responsible Federal ministries.
The delays they have experienced are of great consequence. In the European Union when vaccinations were at 3% there was outrage and uproar enough to create the initiative to push the number to 17.8% within a month. The United States under the new administration moved heaven and earth to accelerate vaccination numbers.
The PN government, on the other hand, is obsessed about controlling the process from A to Z causing completely avoidable delays in procurement.
I am disturbed at the level of inefficiency on the part of the ministerial leadership. For example, the Selangor government waited for months to gain necessary approval despite allocating funds to procure over 2 million doses for the people of Selangor. The Sarawak government faced similar delays in obtaining government approvals.
Some private businesses and foundations have informed me that their efforts to procure approved vaccines have been completely ignored by the Federal government. Also, it has been reported that the Sinopharm vaccine is expected to arrive in May 2021 but since March we are not aware that approval has been granted, creating additional bottlenecks.
The Federal government's goal should be to ensure all Malaysians have access to safe and effective vaccine as soon as possible. However, the Federal government does not need to be the entity which buys and administers every single dose.
State governments have their own sophisticated procurement networks and abilities which may exceed the capacity of the Federal government. There are private companies that are prepared to spend the money, even at premium, to vaccinate their own workers and families.
There are foundations and charitable organizations prepared to support vaccination efforts in local communities. There are hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of Malaysians who would be perfectly willing to pay a few hundred Ringgit out of pocket for a vaccination at a private hospital or clinic. If we are adopting an all-of-society approach, why can't we make use of the resources of the entire society?
If these actors were given the support and approvals they needed quickly, the limited supply that the federal government has at its disposal could be channeled directly to the poor, marginalized and most needy segments in society to ensure equitable, rapid access to the vaccine. Our vaccination rate could be two or three times the current, abysmally low rate.
I am demanding two things. Firstly, the federal government needs to immediately and completely support the efforts of the state government and private sector to procure approved vaccines to accelerate our vaccination rate. Secondly, there must be an independent investigation under the auspices of Parliament into the causes of the procurement bottlenecks that have been experienced by the Federal government, state governments and private sector.
Efficient vaccine procurement is something that we should have been well prepared for months ago. Our current performance is inexcusable.