Doctors’ group calls for GPs, private clinics to receive early Covid-19 vaccination like govt counterparts

A medical worker receives his Covid-19 jab at the Penang General Hospital in George Town March 2, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
A medical worker receives his Covid-19 jab at the Penang General Hospital in George Town March 2, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 — The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has called for the Special Committee on Covid-19 vaccine supply to review its categorisation of frontliners and vaccinate all health officials exposed to the risk of the disease concurrently during phase 1 of the National Immunisation Programme (NIP).

In a statement, its president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said general practitioners (GPs), private specialist clinics and dentists should also be included under category 1 along with public healthcare workers as they are usually the first point of care for patients infected with Covid-19.

“The private GPs and many private specialist clinics are usually the first point of care for patients with symptoms of Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) and Influenza-like illnesses (ILI) — the most common symptoms in patients infected with Covid-19.

“A number of GPs and their staff have been infected with Covid-19 from exposure to patients with these symptoms who were later found to be Covid-19 positive. Some clinics had to shut down for 14 days as a result because the GP and their staff had to be quarantined,” he said.

He added that many GPs are also currently conducting mass and community Covid-19 screenings which put them at increased risk of infection.

“Placing GPs in category two of the guidelines under the Covid-19 NIP shows they are not being recognised as an integral part of the mainstream healthcare system and will only delay efforts to bring the pandemic under control.

“Dentists and their staff are also exposed to the risk of Covid-19 as patients seeing them will need to remove their facemask to be examined and treated,” he said.

He added that the MMA is aware that vaccinations for both categories one and two are planned to roll out concurrently, but that is not being reflected at the ground level.

“With the NIP decentralised to the respective state health departments, closer engagement and improved communication with the private healthcare sector is needed for better coordination and to prevent any confusion,” he said.

Under the NIP guideline, frontliners are defined as individuals with high risks of contracting and being infected by Covid-19 as they are exposed to infected patients, high-risk infected patients, patient samples or environment which has the potential to cause an infection — which makes them eligible for the Covid-19 jab during its first phase rollout.

The categories are divided into two, with the first composed of technical personnel directly involved with treatment care (including institutions under the Health Ministry, Defence Ministry, private hospitals and teaching hospitals).

Those in the second category comprised personnel involved in the health sector, enforcement agencies, security personnel and essential services like general practitioners, private dentists, private laboratories and traditional medicine practitioners.

Primary and secondary school teachers with comorbidities and Health Ministry contractors (sanitisation and security) were also included in the list of second category frontliners.

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