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Friday, July 23, 2021

The Syed Saddiq I Know

 The Saddiq I Know



When I got the news on Wednesday night that Saddiq was going to be charged, my heart sank. Never have I felt so strongly about how difficult it is to practice good politics in Malaysia, especially for young and idealistic people like Saddiq. Some of you may have started to doubt his integrity after the charge, so I want to share with you here what I know about this young man.

I first knew about Saddiq from the online news portal that introduced him as an award-winning debater student at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) who spoke up against Najib Razak. Then there were rumors that he was joining UMNO as they were actively courting him. Well, I wasn’t surprised, for a talented young Malay with political ambitions, joining UMNO was a natural choice. But he did not. He joined Tun Mahathir as one of the founding members of Bersatu in 2016. I didn’t really get to know him personally until we worked together under Pakatan Harapan Youth in 2017.
After that, he was given an offer to study at Oxford University and full sponsorship for his study there. Once again, I thought that maybe he’d forget about Malaysian politics and grab the chance to go to Oxford University. Oxford University was his dream, I know how it feels for a young man from an ordinary family to get an offer from his dream university, just as how I felt about my offer from Cambridge University many years ago.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Entering into Politics – The Story Behind

I first shared the story of how I entered into politics on my blog in an article entitled, “Entering into Politics – The Story Behind” in 2012. Five years later, I retold this story with greater details and deeper reflections in Part 8 of my book entitled "Reimagining Malaysia".

I hope that my story will encourage you to pursue your personal dreams and most importantly, the dreams and hopes for this country. 


The Beginning - Seed of Love

It all started in 2001 with a prayer movement - 40-day Fast and Pray for Malaysia, organized by National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF). I was a first year student in University Technology Petronas (UTP) when I came across this movement. Not knowing why, I felt the urgency to pray for Malaysia. 

In order not to feel lonely, I got my good friend in University Technology Petronas (UTP), Lo Thin Thin, to fast and pray for Malaysia with me. For the next five years in UTP, every year around Merdeka season when NECF distributed its 40-day Fast and Pray for Malaysia booklets, we would each grab a copy and do our 40 days fasting together. 

We usually prayed for Malaysia together in Thin Thin’s room before breaking fast (for dinner). Sometimes a few more friends would join us. Our favourite food was nasi ayam goreng kunyit, which was sold at RM 2.50 in the canteen nearby our dormitory in UTP campus. In my memory, it tasted heavenly, especially with a bit of green cili padi and dark sweet soy sauce. 

It was in my university years that I started to see Malaysia differently. I began to sow the seed of love and passion for this nation through the journey of fast-and-pray for Malaysia. 

Nevertheless, I could hardly imagine myself to be involved in politics then. Even though I knew that politics was important to make change in our country through systemic and policy changes, the nearest imagination I had on politics was “let me get married to a politician”, so I could help my husband to make change. 

The thought may sound funny now but it was just natural for me as I grew up seeing more women in the background than forefront.  It wasn’t in my wildest imagination then, that I as a girl from a small town, could be the agent of change for who I am, what I stand for and what I do, not as a wife or a daughter of someone else. 

Looking back now, I know that anyone, no matter how small we are, can play a part in nation building.  

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Covid-19 Immunization Task Force (CITF) need to buck-up its data management capability to fulfill the objectives of Phase 2 of National Immunisation Program (NIP)

Media Statement by Yeo Bee Yin on Tuesday 8 June 2021 in Bakri, Johor

                                         

Covid-19 Immunization Task Force (CITF) need to buck-up its data management capability to fulfill the objectives of Phase 2 of National Immunisation Program (NIP) 


Recently MySejahtera has introduced several new features in Helpdesk, one of which is for senior citizens above 60 years old who have registered but not obtained vaccination appointments. This is a sign that the RM 70 million National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme's (NIP) data integration and appointment system does not even have basic data management capability. 


Actually from the database of vaccine registration and tracking system of the progress of vaccination, the data system is supposed to be able to extract out those who are above 60 years old but still not vaccinated and their respective locations just from the age and location fields filled by them during the online registration process. This can even be done with simple filter, sorting and logic functions in Microsoft Excel, why is the RM 70 million data system not able to do it?


In addition, during the vaccine registration process, people are asked to answer several questions including whether they are persons with disabilities or have any comorbidities (if yes, tick what they are). These are all targeted groups for Phase 2 in NIP and they are supposed to be given appointments through simple algorithm in the data integration and appointment system. Why was it not done? Many of these priority groups need to be arranged manually. 


Let me give a simple on-the-ground example. Our office got to know that the vaccination center in Muar district (that covers for 3 parliament constituency – Pagoh, Muar and Bakri) had reached senior citizens born in 1957 years or earlier on 30th May 2021, so we issued notice to people in Muar district to get those who are older to register with us to identify people who fall through the crack and to prepare a backup list for the vaccination center to call. We have received more than 500 calls since then. There were even those in their 80s with comorbidities that have not obtained appointment. While we can solve these problems individually by arranging them through vaccination center back-up list at the local level, this scenario has pointed that there are serious flaws in the RM 70 million data and appointment system algorithm. 


With that, I call upon the immunization minister Khairy Jamaluddin to answer why the CITF data team was not able to extract out the list of senior citizens and priority groups from the database and arrange appointments for them accordingly. CITF needs to buck-up on its data management capability to ensure the objectives of Phase 2 NIP will be achieved soon. In addition, Khairy should also disclose the qualifications and capability of the data team behind the RM 70 million system as their capability in handling data for NIP is seriously in doubt now. 


Lastly, CITF must assess if there is any possibility to improve the capability of the data integration and appointment system in a short frame of time, otherwise they should start looking for a decentralized and simpler system that runs in parallel with this clumsy not-so-smart centralized system to ensure that data management does not become an obstacle for a smooth vaccination rollout. 


-End-







Sunday, May 30, 2021

Khairy Jamaluddin must be clear as to when in June the government can achieve daily vaccination rate of 150,000 doses per day and whether it is the maximum or average vaccinate rate?

Media Statement by Yeo Bee Yin, Member of Parliament for Bakri, on Sunday 30 May 2021, in Bakri Johor.

Khairy Jamaluddin must be clear as to when in June the government can achieve daily vaccination rate of 150,000 doses per day and whether it is the maximum or average vaccinate rate?
With skyrocketing infection rate, vaccination rate should increase beyond 150,000 doses per day by involving private general partitioners and government clinics nationwide.
Government should simplify the registration and recordkeeping system of Covid-19 vaccination instead of over relying on MySejahtera and the current management system.
-------

1. Based on the previous estimation of supply and demand curve by the government, our cumulative vaccine administered should be at around 6 million by now (assuming 80% usage rate of the total supply of about 8 million by the end of May).
2. However, due to the hiccups in getting vaccine supply, as of 27th May 2021, only 2.7 million doses have been administered - 1,725,364 first dose and 987,012 second dose, which is about 63% and 37% of total vaccine administered respectively. In terms of percentage of population, only 5.4% and 3% of population receiving at least first dose and fully vaccinated respectively.
3. Based on the estimated cumulative vaccine administered of (1) and the same ratio of first and second dose distribution as (2), we are supposed to be at vaccination rate of 12% and 7% for first dose and full vaccination respectively.
4. What is the cost of the delay of our vaccination rollout? Maybe we can look into US case study and the impact of vaccination toward the number positive cases (US has similar ratio of first and second dose distribution as us). Between roughly 5.4% (first) and 3% (second) vaccination rate and 12% and 7% is more than 40% drop of positive cases!


5. Of course, we can’t compare directly as there are other factors involved such as movement of the people. However, what we can conclude is that the delay in our vaccination rollout has significant impact on the number of positive cases every day.
6. More than 1,000 people has died from Covid in just May alone. If our vaccination rollout were to run as what the government has previously planned, these people did not necessarily need to die! Many more did not necessarily need to go through the suffering Covid-19 sickness caused. Indeed, delay in vaccination has caused unnecessary deaths.
7. Therefore, I would like to seek clarification from the immunization minister Khairy Jamaluddin about his announcement of government plan to ramp up daily vaccination rate to 150,000 doses per day. Is it by 1 June, mid of June or end of June? This is because delay in weeks can be a matter of life and death to hundreds of Malaysians.
8. I would also like to know whether the 150,000 doses per day target is the maximum daily vaccination rate or the average? This is because I’ve noticed that the government tend to announce daily vaccination rate on the days when it was high or use the language of “daily vaccination rate up to xxxx” instead of giving 7 days average so to paint a better picture than reality on the ground. Image below shows Malaysia daily vaccination rate in the month of May. Note that whenever the ministers announced the daily vaccination rate, it was always on the days when the numbers are high.



9. Therefore, whether 150,00 dose per day target is the maximum or average makes a big difference in the total vaccination rate. If we can achieve vaccination rate of at least 150,000 dose per day on average for the month of June from 1 June 2021, we will be able to see vaccination rate of 14% first dose and 8% full vaccination by the end of next month and it will help to bring down the total number positives cases.
10. In fact, with the current skyrocketing infection rate, we should aim even higher than average of 150,000 doses per day by involving private general practitioners (GPs) and government clinics nationwide. As it is, almost all of them already have facilities to store vaccines except with Pfizer vaccine that need special storage.
11. The minister announced recently that there will be nearly 16 million more doses of vaccines supply in June and July, 12 million of which is Sinovac that only require normal refrigeration. Even if the government can achieve 150,000 doses on average from 1 June 2021 (that is a very big IF), at 80% usage rate, it will only need about 11 million doses of vaccine supply. In another word, there will be at least 5 million more extra vaccines that can be distributed to GPs and government clinics around the country.
12. Lastly, let’s just face it, the RM 70 million MySejahtera and vaccination rollout management system are incapable of coping higher vaccination rate. Even at the current vaccination rate, MySejahtera is already making errors in appointment arrangement and the hotline is always down.
13. In addition, the government has listed priority for Covid-19 vaccination for the second phase of the national rollout targeting the elderly and people with comorbidities, but until now, many of them that already registered still haven’t been assigned any vaccination slot by MySejahtera and when called, the hotline was down.
14. This still happen after 3 months of very slow vaccination rollout, what makes the government so confident that by next month the system will become efficient as we ramp up the vaccination rate? Is the team behind MySejahtera and the current management system really capable to revamp the system in such a short time frame? I doubt so.
15. Moving forward, we need a simpler system for registration and recordkeeping, perhaps a decentralized one. My 1-year-old toddler has been injected many vaccines since his birth and all we have to do was for the pediatrician to record them in a card and for the hospital to keep the vaccination records and report to the government. Why when it comes to Covid-19 vaccination, the process becomes so complicated?
16. At the very least, doctors in both private and public hospitals should be able to register their patients with comorbidities, request for vaccine supplies from the government and administer them accordingly. Then we can at least ensure the vulnerable groups are vaccinated, instead of just waiting for MySejahtera to finally get it right.
17. Our healthcare system is at the brink of breaking down. Unprecedented speed of vaccination with special attention to the yet-to-be-vaccinated vulnerable groups in June while the nation is locked down is a major step that we need to take to give breathing space to the healthcare system and to prepare us for opening up. I hope the government will finally take whole-of-society approach to make sure vaccination rollout ramp up really happen in June. Delay no more!

-End-

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The government should seriously consider prioritizing first dose of vaccine in our vaccine distribution plan as we ramp up vaccinate rate.

The government should seriously consider prioritizing first dose of vaccine in our vaccine distribution plan as we ramp up vaccinate rate.

First of all, I would like to welcome government efforts on vaccination for pregnant and lactating mothers with KJ announcement that a new feature will be available on the MySejahtera app to enable pregnant and lactating mothers to register for vaccination and the assurance that suitable vaccines will be administered to them. This is indeed a good news to all expectant and lactating mummies! Secondly, on KJ statement on herd immunity yesterday, I am still not convinced that we’ll be able to reach herd immunity by year end, if herd immunity is defined as 80% population being vaccinated and that the maximum capacity of daily vaccination rate is only 150,000 doses per day as I’ve explained here: https://www.facebook.com/150371651783435/posts/2014874865333095/
We need to ramp up vaccination rate to an average of 250,000 doses per day from 1 June 2021 onwards to make achieving herd immunity by year end a reality.
However, whether we can reach the textbook-definition of herd immunity by year end is not as important as to whether our vaccination rollout can break the chain of infection and reduce the number of positive cases. The million-dollar question is then, with the limited dosage we can administer per day, which pathway can help us best to reduce the number of positive cases? As UK has all their data on vaccination (first dose & second dose), positive cases, testing etc available online, I was able to do an analysis of their strategy of first and second dose distribution and here are the findings. [UK was able to reach average vaccination rate of about 150,000 doses per day in first month of their vaccination rollout, 400,000 doses in the second month and by mid of third month 500,000 doses per day on average (last image). As for our vaccination rollout program, due to limited supply, our vaccination rate did not take up until last week.] Anyway, assuming that we are now at the equivalent to UK first two months of vaccination rollout, let’s now look at their vaccine distribution plan (first image). They prioritized 1st dosage to as many people as possible with more than 90% of total dosage administered daily being 1st dosage until they entered into third month, when it dropped below 90%. The population that received first dose of vaccination grow linearly for the first 3 months then at slower growth from fourth month on (second image). Now let’s look at what is most important - the number of positive cases dropped 40%, 75% and 85% from the peak respectively as the percentage of population received first dose vaccination increased from 10% to 20% to 30%. The percentage of second dosage only start increasing from middle of third month and it helped to further reduced the rate of growth of new cases. All in all, prioritizing first dose in their first phase of vaccination distribution has worked for the UK in term of reducing their positive cases significantly. Compare it to our vaccination roll out, as of 24th May 2021, cumulatively we’ve administered 1,578,225 first dose and 905,271 second dose, which is about 64% and 36% of total vaccine administered respectively. As we ramp out our vaccination rate in June, the government should seriously rethink our vaccination distribution strategy and consider the feasibility of UK strategy in prioritizing first dose. With 150,000 dose per day, we can reach first dose of vaccination to 20% of population in just 1 month (taking into account the 1.58 million that already receive first dose) and that can potentially help to reduce our positive cases significantly. This is particularly important as our number of new cases is increasing exponentially and reached record high again yesterday. We desperately in need of quick action. Every week of delay in vaccinations will literally cost us hundreds of lives. Of course, as we consider this strategy, we need to take into account the type of vaccines being administered, manufacturers recommendations and most importantly, whether we can control the spread of new variants and the efficacy of first dose of the vaccines towards the new variants, therefore it cannot be an apple-to-apple comparison to the UK case and wholesale copy-and-paste strategy into Malaysia vaccination rollout. However, I do believe that the real-life data of the UK show merits to the strategy and suit our conditions (as our infection rate is skyrocketing and we have limited capacity in vaccination rate – even 150,000 doses daily is not high to be honest). It indeed requires serious consideration from the government as we ramp up our vaccination rollout. Again, because parliament is closed, I can only write what is supposed to my parliament speech on social media so that the public is informed of the policy option and for the option to be considered by the immunization minister and the Covid-19 Immunisation Taskforce (just like what they’ve done in the vaccination for pregnant ladies case) as they are planning the next phase of vaccine rollout. -End-

Image 1: UK Example - First and Second Dose


Image 2: UK Example - First and Second Doses by % Population vs Daily New Cases


Image 3: Number of Vaccination given, be report date


Saturday, May 22, 2021

Putting Vaccination Rates Comparison into Perspectives

The question of how we are doing in term of vaccination can be a tricky one.  Who do we compare ourselves to and on what matrix? Of course, the government will tell you that it is unfair to compare Malaysia to developed countries and that vaccine shortage is a common issue among all developing countries.  While it is true and it’s important for the international community to continue to speak against the developed countries who are hoarding the vaccine supplies, perhaps there is more than just the actions of the developed countries that led to the current low vaccination rate in Malaysia. 

I’ve prepared 4 graphs with the help of Our World in Data (https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus) to give more meaningful assessment to the current Malaysia vaccination rate: 

i. comparison with the average across different continents 
ii. comparison with our SEA neighbors 
iii. comparison with countries that have similar GDP per capita compared to us; and
iv. comparison with countries that have lower GDP per capita than us. 




For iii & iv, it is according to rankings prepared by International Monetary Funds (IMF) and excludes countries with populations smaller than 5 million (as it is easier for them to achieve high vaccination rate due to small population and may distort the perspectives). These 2 graphs show clearly that we’ve fallen behind not only when compare with developed countries and developing countries that are richer than us but also those that are poorer than us! Therefore, the explanation of low vaccination rate due entirely on income level does not hold water. In fact, we are even falling short of the government's earlier estimation of vaccine supply! (I explained this in my earlier post.)

Now, in all fairness, can we still tap our shoulder and say, “no worries, we are doing well in vaccination and ignore the naysayers?” The first step into improving anything in life is to recognize that there are shortcomings, then find out why and learn from those who are doing better than us. We urgently need to find ways to catch up so that together we can see the end of the tunnel by end of the year as targeted by the government. 

No, although we are from opposite side of the political divides, I don't wish to see the government fail in this. In fact, the whole of Malaysian society should rally behind this cause to ensure the success of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Program.

- End - 


Friday, May 21, 2021

Is our vaccine supply now falling short of government earlier estimation? Are we on track of getting 4 million of additional vaccine supply in the month of May?

Media Statement by Yeo Bee Yin, Member of Parliament of Bakri on Friday 21 May 2021, in Bakri, Johor.  

Is our vaccine supply now falling short of government earlier estimation? Are we on track of getting 4 million of additional vaccine supply in the month of May? 

 

As Malaysians are enduring the movement control order (MCO 3.0) for more than a week now with the daily Covid-19 positive number shows no sign of improvement, we begin to wonder if MCO 3.0 will be extended and most importantly, when will we be seeing the end of the tunnel? Indeed, many things may not be within our control such as emerging variants. However, we can at least do other things such as increasing efficiency and speed in trace, test and isolate as well as managing the vaccination rollout better to lower the number of cases and severity of the positive cases. 

 

Vaccination rollout in the United Kingdom (UK) showed clearly that vaccination although not the silver bullet is a major solution to the crisis. Let me illustrate that in numbers. The UK started their vaccination roll-out in the beginning of 2021. At the start of the year, the first dose vaccination rate was less than 3% while full vaccination rate less than 1%. As of now, nearly 70% of the UK population has received at least first dose of vaccine and about 40% completed two doses of vaccine as of now. The number of their Covid-19 positive cases dropped from the range of 60,000 per day in January 2021 to the range of 2,000 positive cases per day in May 2021. Within just 5 months of efficient vaccine rollout, the UK saw a drop of more than 95% of positive cases! [1]

 

Malaysia National Covid-19 Immunisation Plan was launched on 24 February 2021. On 14 April 2021, the Immunisation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin shared on his social media an estimation of vaccine supply and demand curve by Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine (JKJAV) as below. 

 

Yesterday, it was reported that Malaysia has administered 2.07 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines as of yesterday according to JKJAV. Assuming 70% usage rate, we have received about 2.95 millions of vaccine supply so far. However, from the estimation graph, we should have received about 6 million vaccine supply by mid of May (red arrow). Is our vaccination supply now falling short of earlier estimation? 

 

Even if we don’t look back and finding fault, the graph also shows that in the month of May, we’ll receive 4 million additional vaccine supply. Looking at how urgent it is for faster vaccination rollout, two third of the month of May has gone, we would like to seek clarification from the government if the estimation of 4 million doses of additional vaccine supply this month will be achieved? And is the government going to find ways to compensate for the shortfall of vaccine supply from estimation? 

 



 

The government cannot put the entire blame of the shortage of vaccine supply to the behavior of the developed countries. We should find ways to do more efficiently of what we can control. For example, Pharmaniaga received 200 litres of Sinovac vaccine in bulk for fill-and-finish on 27 February 2021, however the first batch of locally filled-and-finished Sinovac vaccines (290,480 doses) was only ready to be distributed last week - more than 10 weeks after receiving the bulk supply. The government should review the process and if possible, find ways shorten bulk-to-vials process (without compromising the safety). 

 

We once again call upon the government to use whole-of-government and all-of-society approach so that we as a nation can achieve the vaccination target set earlier – i.e supply equivalent to 80% population by October and 80% population fully vaccinated by February 2022. The opposition (parties and states) as well as the private sectors are not the enemies to the government in this, there are still rooms for more collaborations that the government can leverage on so that we can together, ensure the National Covid-19 Immunization Program a success. 


- End -

 

 

[1] UK Covid-19 statistics such as vaccination rate, testing rate, number of positive cases etc can be found on website: https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/cases

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Where is the 150,000 testing capacity targeted by the government in January?

Media Statement by MP for Bakri, Yeo Bee Yin on Saturday 15 May 2021 in Bakri, Johor. (scroll down for BM and Mandarin)

Where is the 150,000 testing capacity targeted by the government in January?


Malaysians started the third movement control order (MCO 3.0) recently and many families are struggling to get by in terms of finance, jobs, education, business, physical and mental health etc. Beside the confusing standard operating procedures (SOPs) that draw a lot of angers and criticisms, the important question now is, what is the government doing differently this time around compared to MCO 1.0 and MCO 2.0?
The government cannot expect rakyat to be disciplined and suffer the financial impact of MCO while they themselves are not bucking up. One of the most important but straight forward actions to contain virus spreading is through test and isolate with a simple logic that the faster we find out Covid-19 positive people in the community and isolate them, the less likely for them to spread the virus in the community.
There have been calls from many groups, including the opposition lawmakers, to ramp up testing capacity of the country. In fact, back in January, the government itself said it targeted to increase RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) testing capacity of the country from about 70,000 to 100,000 with the aim to reach 150,000 testing capacity [1].
Four months have now passed, our testing figures still revolve around 70,000 per day, where is the promised 150,000? Covid-19 virus waits for no one, 4 months is a long time in battling once-in-a-century global pandemic!
In addition, the government makes no attempt to run other large-scale screening initiatives to identify positive cases in the community. It completely ignored the calls from many groups to include rapid antigen testing (RTK-Ag) in nationwide screening processes. While RTK-Ag may be less accurate, but it makes up for speed and capacity (as it is widely available and not restricted by lab capacity). It surely has a place to play as a stopgap measure as we struggle in increasing RT-PCR capacity.
Indeed, tackling Covid-19 crisis is not an easy one, but if after a year, the government can’t even get basic things like test and isolate right, what hope do Malaysians have? How many more MCO can we afford to bring the country out of Covid-19 crisis? The government is insane if their plan is to do the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.

-End-

[1] https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/malaysia-aims-more-double-covid19-testing-capacity-150000-da