Opinion

Malaysia Needs to Add Another Number to Its Daily Covid Tracking

Image Credit: Business Standard
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Daily new cases in Malaysia are important, but the most important number for the country’s people is notably missing from the daily totals.

Like clockwork late every afternoon, the latest daily Covid-19 numbers get published, shared with the media, and updated on the MySejahtera app.

And like clockwork, we all check various sources to find the latest updates and ponder what it means if the daily new cases have gone up or down, and lament the latest new deaths.

Looking at the past seven days, Malaysia is reporting 7,433 new infections on average each day — the highest seven-day daily average was reported on June 3, and the peak number of new cases (9,020) was recorded on May 29.

Overall, as of June 6, there have been 616,815 infections and 3,378 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began.

These numbers are certainly important to track, and for most people to at least be familiar with. But realistically speaking, daily new cases offer more of a look backwards, as it takes several days to two weeks for infections to be detected.

Screenshot from Ministry of Health update, June 3, 2021

Every few days, the infectivity index, or R-naught number, is updated, as well, which is generally a more useful number to gauge where we’re going. However, it’s most meaningful when no one in the population has been vaccinated, and no one has had the disease and recovered. Neither of those criteria are the case in Malaysia. (Currently that number is at 1.0, which generally means each existing infection will cause one new infection, so the disease is ongoing and stable, but is not a growing pandemic.)

The most critical number for getting a better picture of where we’re headed with the pandemic, however, is notably missing, and that’s the number of vaccination jabs administered each day, along with a running total.

According to Reuters, using data from Malaysia’s Ministry of Health, Malaysia has administered at least 3,420,713 doses of Covid-19 vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs twp doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 5.4% of the country’s population.

During the last week, Malaysia averaged about 71,284 doses administered each day. At that rate, it will take a further 90 days to administer enough doses for just another 10% of the population.

Clearly that’s not good enough.

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There’s an increasing push to track Malaysia’s vaccination efforts on a daily basis, as Malaysia’s government has set a goal of 150,000 jabs per day… and more would be even better.

The Edge has taken a leading role in rallying Malaysians to get vaccinated. The publication’s parent company, The Edge Media Group, has launched an straight-talking ad campaign — If You Are Not Part of The Solution, You Will Be Part of The Problem —to help ramp up Covid-19 vaccination registrations.

Parallel to the campaign, The Edge will be tracking the number of vaccinations done nationally and state by state in all its digital and print platforms through its Race To Herd Immunity charts.

The Edge Media Group publisher and group chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Ho Kay Tat said, “When the pandemic broke out last March (last year), we helped raised RM25 million to buy equipment to support our hospitals and PPE (personal protective equipment) for healthcare workers. This effort will be coming to an end soon.”

He added, “The way forward now, as the government and medical experts have said, is to vaccinate as many people as fast as we can. Every Malaysian must help in this effort.”

NOT OFF TO THE BEST START

Over three months into the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, Malaysia has only vaccinated 6% of its target population. More concerning is that the registration remains lacklustre. The number of people who have registered for vaccination so far is just under 12 million, which is less than 50% of the 25 million target, a number that authorities believe will give the country herd immunity.

Vaccine hesitancy or refusal will spoil efforts to end the pandemic because herd immunity can’t be achieved without enough people getting vaccinated.

However, it may not take so many to make a positive difference. The experience of the US and UK has shown that the number of daily cases and deaths will start to fall when about 25% of the population is vaccinated with at least one dose. In the US, despite leading the world in total cases and deaths due to a catastrophically poor initial response, life is starting to return to normal as over half of the country’s population has gotten at least one dose.

According to The Edge, based on the government’s roll-out plan, it has been projected that Malaysia can vaccinate eight million people (25% of the total population) with at least one dose by end-July, and 11 million by early September — 35% of the total population or 45% of the targeted 25 million.

MySejahtera’s daily status update as of June 6

We would love to see the number of doses administered each day added to the MySejahtera statistics, but in the meantime, you can track the progress here:

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For the Reuters coronavirus tracker (with vaccination information), CLICK HERE.

For The Edge‘s vaccination tracker, CLICK HERE.




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