Malaysia’s rampant rollout of the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme (PICK) has shown positive progress in several areas including the number of people vaccinated, and cases admitted to public hospitals. As of end September 2021, Malaysia has successfully inoculated more than 60 and 80 per cent of its whole population and adult population respectively. To this end, Malaysia boasts one of the fastest vaccination rates in the world, and according to COVIDNOW, a platform initiated by the Government of Malaysia for data and insights on COVID-19, more than 200,000 doses are administered per day. As many of the population continue to be vaccinated, including adolescents, the newly appointed Minister of Health Malaysia, Khairy Jamaluddin, announced recently that COVID-19 is expected to become an endemic in Malaysia within the year.
The trend of new COVID-19 cases in Malaysia has started to decline since the end of August. On 1 August, Khairy Jamaluddin announced that the federal government’s initiative to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations for residents in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, one of the hardest hits by the virus, ended with a 97 per cent success rate. According to the Director-General of Health Malaysia, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah, COVID-19 hospitalisation and intensive care unit admission figures have also gone down in states with higher vaccination rates. With the continued downward trend of COVID-19 cases and high inoculation rate in the Greater Klang Valley, several hospitals are expected to be removed as designated COVID-19 hospitals by the end of October and vaccination centres (PPV) in the region will be gradually closed in stages. Further to support this, in a study led by the Institute of Clinical Research (ISR), they found that complete inoculation with COVID-19 vaccines is 83 per cent effective against admission into intensive care and can prevent death by 88 per cent.
On 8 September, Malaysia also began vaccination for adolescents with the Ministry of Health aiming to ensure that 60 per cent of adolescents aged between 12 and 17 to get at least one dose of the vaccine by November 2021. The Ministry aims to complete COVID-19 inoculation for 80 per cent of eligible children before school reopens in 2022.
As the nation progresses towards endemicity, the Minister of Health stressed that health is paramount and the importance of living a healthier lifestyle, not only to mitigate severe symptoms when contracted with the virus, but also for other health concerns and general wellbeing. Malaysia currently tops the region in several non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. In a joint report by the Ministry of Health Malaysia and the World Health Organization, it was revealed that NCDs cost the country more than RM8.91 billion, or about 0.65 per cent of the GDP. Thus, he stressed that as the country is #ReopeningSafely, the first line of defence will be to ensure to live a healthy lifestyle, exercise, and conduct regular health screenings.