TAWAU, March 7 — Sabahans have been urged to immediately get the Covid-19 booster dose before the reopening of the country’s borders due to fears of exposure to Covid-19 with the arrival of people from the Philippines and Indonesia, said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said the concern was due to the vaccination rate in both countries which is still low.

“The areas bordering Sabah are a long way from their capital cities, our assumption is that the vaccination rate among people in the Southern Philippines and Kalimantan is low.

“If the border is opened, more (foreign) people will enter, we have procedures but vaccination coverage in Sabah is important because the risk of Covid-19 from the neighbouring countries is there, this is for preparation,” he said after officiating the mass cataract surgery initiative (MCSI) here today.

Khairy said so far 40 per cent of adults in Sabah had received booster jabs while about 16 per cent of children aged five to 11 in the state had received the Covid-19 vaccine.

In the meantime, he said various efforts have been implemented to ensure senior citizens aged 60 and above in the country could get the booster jabs including carrying out opportunistic immunisation of which the elderly who are admitted to hospitals would be assessed and administered the Covid-19 vaccine before they are allowed to return home.

Opportunistic immunisation refers to the practice of checking the vaccination status of all people at every opportunity such as hospital admission and vaccinating when appropriate.

On the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme for Children (PICKids), he said parents should no longer take the wait and see approach because the programme has been implemented for more than a month, adding that most children who were vaccinated only experienced mild side effects.

“Parents refused to give permission even though the programme is brought to schools, on the day of vaccination they didn’t turn up, so I appeal to parents to allow their children to take the vaccination because I see so many children admitted to hospitals due to Covid-19,” he said.

Meanwhile, Khairy said as the Covid-19 pandemic put pressure on the health system in Malaysia, many non-emergency and elective treatments had to be postponed such as surgical services including cataract surgery which reported 16,288 pending cases until October last year.

He said, however, with the implementation of MCSI, the pending cases were reduced to 4,960 cases as of December last year and 360 pending cases in Tawau as of October 2021 with 83 surgeries were conducted as of last month.

“Today, Tawau Hospital implemented MCSI targeting 200 cataract surgeries to be performed within seven days until March 13 which also involved 17 ophthalmologists as well as 12 medical officers and health personnel from the Ministry of Health, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia and Universiti Malaysia Sabah,” he said.

Khairy also launched an ICU hybrid field project worth RM6.25 million at Tawau Hospital besides visiting several health clinics around Tawau that are in need of repair. — Bernama