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Dr Kong Why Hong, Founder of Asian Integrated Medical Sdn Bhd was invited to participate as an expert contributor to the first Healthy Ageing & Life-Course Immunisation Policy Dialogue organised by Ageing Asia. Other attendees Multi-sectorial participants from the healthcare industry, academia, elderly advocacy groups and pharmacy, among others are:-
The Healthy Ageing & Life-Course Immunisation Policy Dialogue will convene on:
Date: Tuesday, 12 July 2022
Time: 3:00pm – 5:00pm (Malaysia time)
Format: Virtual session via Zoom
Notable Q&A (by Dr.Kong)
1. What has been achieved to date?
During the height of the pandemic, our medical supply business was overwhelmed by orders from hospitals, nursing homes, and customers requiring emergency equipment, such as disinfectants, gloves, face masks, and oxygen concentrators. Nursing home operators were stressed out, due to the elderly population having weaker immune systems, even a single contracted Covid-case within their homes would be like stepping on a land mine for them. We received many late-night emergency calls from our peers and partners within the industry, urgently asking for help as their residents were rushed to hospitals one after the other, with worried family members anxiously pointing fingers and stressing out the nursing home staff. During this time, we gave out care packages with Covid-19 essentials to many nursing homes within KL and Selangor, and rented out free oxygen concentrators to nursing homes housing residents affected by or in recovery from Covid-19.
We also set up a PPV in AEON Bukit Raja, where we have vaccinated more than 10,000 citizens in total. We also vaccinated around 50 to 100 patients a day in our Polyclinic in Cheras Perdana over the past few months, but that number has dwindled since the past 2-3 months. These days, we are giving 2nd booster does for age over 60 with underlying disease.
2. What are the missing gaps/challenges?
In this case, the Covid-19 virus was a new strain that we were not prepared for. Development of a vaccine only started once we managed to collect data and learn more about the virus. During this time, the MCO managed to limit the number of infections. This was a good move. However, the inability to travel, loss of income, and sudden implementation left many individuals and families unprepared. Most of the challenges faced were due to poor planning and the lack of contingencies to help citizens out during times of crisis.
3. What tangible actions and policy changes can be pursued?
I think overall, our government did a good job in managing the pandemic. As to how can improve in the future: We need our ministers to heed proper advice from reliable experts and a capable director to lead a response team to ensure that the nation and economy does not spiral into chaos.
We also need a clear designated source of information, one that is updated regularly, to ensure that instructions and messages regarding the MCO reach all citizens reliably. We need transparency and good communication from our leaders so we can stay informed as citizens, and citizens should also do our part and follow the SOP.
4. How can we advocate for actions using the policy summary?
If we look at the data published by the Institute for Clinical Research, under MOH, The initial MCO was effective in limiting the number of Covid cases within Malaysia. But once the MCO was lifted, the number of cases rose steadily, and the government had to introduce MCO 2.0. This was effective in the short term, but once MCO 2.0 was lifted, the cases began rising again, at an even higher rate than before.
On February 24 2021, The National immunization program was launched. Vaccinations were rolled out in a timely manner, along with the introduction of MCO 3.0. These two strategies combined successfully brought down the number of deaths, ICU beds occupied, and Covid-19 notifications sharply and starting from Mid-August, 2021, and brought it to an all-time-low, earlier this year in March 2022. This clearly shows that vaccination is working, not only just for the elderly population, but for all Malaysians. There is no stronger proof than the data.
5. Who are the stakeholders that we need to reach to realize these actions
News outlets, hospitals, elderly home centers, schools, even business owners and factory managers. One of the biggest issues faced with vaccinations for the elderly population was the false rumors spread regarding the vaccinations, often by baseless sources. The population needs to be properly informed and educated regarding the vaccines - accurate and educational information needs to be consistent and constant, especially for the more old-fashioned elderlies, who often fear the unknown.
One of the most affected demographics that could have been taken care of better are the foreign workers in our country.