KUALA LUMPUR: Poor organisation, coordination and communication made a mess of the vaccination process at the World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur here today.
With 16,200 people scheduled to get vaccinated here over the weekend, it appeared as if little had been done to prepare for the huge number of vaccine recipients.
There were no markings on the floor to indicate where vaccine recipients were supposed to stand or line up. Many who turned up were unclear whether they were supposed to queue up to enter the only door that was open, or walk straight onwards to the front.
“How many days have they had to organise? It’s so messy,” said one Malaysian, who requested to remain anonymous, as he looked around, confused as to where he was supposed to wait for his appointment.
Police, military personnel and organisers seemed out of sync, with some shouting that certain groups in the crowd should come “right to the front” while others were told to remain waiting in disorderly queues.
It was difficult to ascertain who was actually in charge, with each group of officials occasionally calling a different time slot forward, adding to the confusion.
Social distancing was made difficult by the lack of clarity.
Julie, who was scheduled to be vaccinated at 11.30am, said she was called into the building around noon.
“There seemed to be no coordination. Outside, they had just called for the 11.30am batch. But when you enter, they tell you that you’re late. It was a mistake to choose a weekend to do the vaccination.”
Distancing measures were slightly better inside the building, but it was still unclear where a person was supposed to go once he or she had entered.
While there were stickers on the ground and signage to indicate where the different “stations” were to queue, these were frequently not observed by officials on duty, who asked recipients booked for certain time slots to bypass them entirely.
In comparison, the main hall was well organised and orderly, with chairs spaced out according to government SOPs, and the instructions were clear.
The recipients were directed to chairs according to their groupings and called up via a ticketing system.
Getting to that point however was clearly a work in progress.
Coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin had announced that some 2,800 people had their slots for this weekend rescheduled to avoid overcrowding.
However, it appeared that the larger problem was not the number of people who turned up for the vaccination, but a lack of preparation.
The World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur is just one of several centres in the Klang Valley which is carrying out vaccination for those who had registered for the AstraZeneca shots.
From Dr Venugopal Balchand
This article is purely to provoke thought and promote ”situational awareness”, a military lingo for preparing for the unknown. I solemnly dedicate this piece to the 100 Malaysians who laid down their lives between May 12 and 14, 2021 as they gallantly fought an invisible, unseen enemy – Covid-19.
And of course to the other 1,722 Malaysians (until May 14) who have died since the Covid-19 pandemic began more than a year ago.
Dead people don’t lie. From their heroic battles may we lesser mortals learn important lessons and act on them with urgency, fervour and precision so that these slain Covid-19 warriors may rest in peace knowing that eventually, we WILL win this war.
From September 1986 to August 1988, I served as the regimental medical officer of the 19th Royal Malay Regiment. So, yes, I do know a thing or two about warfare, both the guerrilla and the conventional kind, at least in theory.
Make no mistake. Malaysia is now waging a war. A war with a cunning, technologically advanced enemy who has only utter disdain and disregard for age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, socio-economic status or political affiliation. This enemy is programmed to destroy. And what a track record.
As of the evening of May 14, 462,190 Malaysians attacked, 41,471 still walking wounded, a total of 1,822 killed, a hundred of them in just three days. From 1968 to 1989, the Malaysian security forces were engaged in armed conflict with the communists.
In 21 years and 6 months of the counter insurgency, Malaysia lost 155 soldiers. A total of 854 were wounded. To put things in perspective, even at the height of the conflict, we never ever lost 100 Malaysians in three days. And what’s 854 wounded compared to 4,000 to 5,000 new Covid-19 cases in a single day?
I distinctly remember a story narrated by my commanding officer when we were discussing strategy at the base camp in Gerik while on duty.
According to him, an attack on one of the Malaysian army camps took place during the insurgency, with lots of gunfire at the periphery of the camp. A platoon of 17 soldiers were sent immediately to investigate.
Over the next one hour, the enemy gunfire seemed to be receding, going farther and farther away from the advancing platoon. Our soldiers became complacent and did not pay attention to subtle details.
A sense of overconfidence and maybe even arrogance came over them. And then, suddenly, they realised their awful mistake. They were surrounded! The sound of retreating gunfire was pure strategy. The entire platoon was decimated. Like lambs to the slaughter.
Does the story ring a bell? Unsuspecting Malaysians, thinking they have forced the enemy to retreat, were only to be ambushed, again and again and again.
There is a reason why we have the army, navy and air force. The right people with the right training to handle the right equipment to execute the right strategy. No armoured personnel carrier (APC) driver can suddenly pilot a MiG fighter aircraft just because he is a member of the armed forces.
This pandemic is best understood by the infectious diseases physicians, the virologists, the epidemiologists and the researchers. The collateral damage is probably best assessed by the statisticians, actuaries and the economists.
The pain and suffering of the man on the street is best felt by the people on the ground, NGOs, social scientists and activists. The sheer agony of going through the illness is experienced only by the nurses and doctors tending to the sick.
We need multiple platoons of these crack commandos stationed at strategic points in the country. But, most importantly, we need one general. Someone whose credentials and love for this country is beyond question. Someone who can bark the orders so firmly and so loudly that everyone else stands to attention.
When the sirens of war start blaring, all that the civilian population has to do is follow orders. Just shut up, switch off the lights and retreat to the bunkers. War is not the time for individual liberties. Not the time for grandiose discussions or meetings after meetings.
We need action. Now. And in return, for obedience and discipline, it is incumbent upon the top brass to provide for the basic needs of the population. Rations, first aid, survival kits and, most importantly confidence, belief and pride that this war is being fought with integrity, intelligence and intent to destroy the enemy.
In the only conventional war that Malaya participated in, from 1939 to 1945, 60,000 of our people perished. From a then population of four million. In that war, we could see our enemy. We knew their strengths and weaknesses.
Not in this war though. A tiny viral particle rampaging through humanity, teasing us with mutations and making us beg for mercy as each variant becomes more lethal than the previous one. Is there a magic bullet? A nuclear weapon? There is only one. Vaccination!
Our vaccination programme started on Feb 24, 2021. In close to 12 weeks, we have only fully vaccinated around 750,000 people. A paltry 3% of the population. This is like giving ammunition to only 3% of our military and asking the rest of the soldiers to fight with sticks and rubber bands.
Surely we can do better. Let us now focus all our energy and resources on providing Malaysians with better ammunition. Let me close with some typical military terms. These are accepted military phrases, used widely and so I do not apologise for the coarse but highly effective language.
We have “screwed the pooch” but it is time to put “balls to the wall”. We may be stuck “in the trenches” in “no man’s land” for some time to come.
Let us put more “boots on the ground” “on the double”! “On the frontlines”, we need to “bite the bullet”, shout “Geronimo” and get on with our “nuclear option”.
As a veteran, I only pray that somebody, anybody, shouts “Roger that!”
FREE MALAYSIA TODAY