By Dr Fathima Begum Syed Mohideen
In early June 2020, the Minister of Higher Education (MOHE), Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad, announced the involvement of universities as vaccination centres (PPV) to facilitate vaccination in the country. Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) was chosen as a one of the PPV IPT MEGA. The university is a public Islamic university that integrates revelation sciences and rational sciences in the courses offered.
The implementation of PPV IPT MEGA is in line with the activities in the USIM 2022 Mission Strategic Plan, namely community engagement and volunteerism. The COVID-19 outbreak has hindered USIM's efforts to reach the community through previously planned programmes. However, the selection as the PPV IPT MEGA opens opportunities for USIM to carry out community engagement and volunteerism activities.
The lecturers of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FPSK), USIM, were often involved with community services like the Asnaf project and ‘Klip Mobile’ services using a mobile truck offering ophthalmologist services to the rural communities. Among the activities were medical consultations and health education. These activities were organised by the USIM Health Specialist Clinic before the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, since the COVID-19 outbreak, community activities were postponed. The appointment of USIM by the MOHE for PPV IPT MEGA was an opportunity to provide COVID-19 vaccine services to the community, particularly in Negeri Sembilan. The faculty lecturers, particularly in Public Health and Family Medicine, work together with other lecturers and staff to achieve the target to vaccinate the community. In fact, everyone in USIM contributes enormously to ensure achievement.
USIM Healthcare handles vaccination
On 28 June 2021, the university started operating as one of the PPV with the cooperation of the COVID-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF), and Protect Health Sdn Bhd, FPSK and USIM Healthcare Sdn Bhd (UHSB) have collaborated to help and manage this effort.
The UHSB, which operates the USIM Health Specialist Clinic, is responsible for the handling of vaccination. Meanwhile, the faculty is involved in the management and facilitation of the vaccination process.
This National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme has allowed residents of this Islamic Science, community-based university, especially medical professionals, to provide the best service to the university's "guests" who, at first, were mostly senior citizens of different races and religions. Many come from the area around the district of Nilai, a long journey for some to reach USIM.
Volunteers from the Malaysia Vaccine Support Volunteers (MyVac) and CITF are also involved at PPV USIM. A total of 25 registration counters, doctor's desks, vaccine rooms and vaccine verification counters have been opened. This accelerated the vaccination process and vaccinees are happy as they do not have to wait long. The PPV is open from 8.30 am to 6.30 pm daily including public holidays. In a day, about 3,000 doses of vaccine are administered.
The university wants to ensure that vaccinees get the best service, feel comfortable, and are satisfied after receiving the vaccine injection. Vaccinees express their happiness after receiving the vaccine, some verbally while others via social media.
Ramping up vaccination
This effort has facilitated accelerating the vaccination rate in Malaysia. The government's target is to complete vaccination of 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the population in Malaysia by the end of 2021. There are 659 PPV locations throughout the country. Vaccination efforts are currently in Phase 3, from May 2021 to February 2022, targeting 13.7 million people aged 18 and above. USIM is honoured to be part of this effort.
This similar effort is also done by other public universities including Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, University of Malaya and Universiti Teknologi Mara. There are 47 private universities in Malaysia, some of which do offer medical courses. The universities with medical expertise, perhaps, may also take this opportunity to serve the community vaccination programme.
In fact, a new safe effective method to serve the vaccine to those bedridden in homes or those in rural areas can also be thought and implemented by other universities that are planning to participate in this PPV programme. However, adequate facilities are vital as the vaccine cold chain must be maintained to ensure vaccine effectiveness.
The universities with medical expertise may contribute by educating the anti-vaxxers subtly or educate parents regarding vaccination for children. It is hoped that this sincere effort by the universities at this time of pandemic will assist the government's mission in providing COVID-19 vaccine to everyone, as soon as possible. With this, herd immunity will also be achieved shortly for a safer life. And this will make for historical erudition.
Dr Fathima Begum Syed Mohideen is a Family Medicine Specialist and Lecturer at the Department of Primary Health Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan.