It’s safe to say that most city folks are aware of the existence of MySejahtera and the importance of keeping up to date with vaccine developments through the internet.
Since most of us own smartphones and have some basic knowledge on how technology works, there really isn’t much of a problem for us when it comes to registering ourselves and our loved ones for the vaccine.
However, for those over the age of 60 living in rural areas, the situation is entirely different. This was clearly reflected in the statistics and turn-up for the second AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out that didn’t get as many registrations as the first, and consequently, the third.
For 81-year-old Mek Nab Said, living alone in her kampung in Kota Bharu, Kelantan meant not knowing any information regarding the vaccines and not having the proper transportation to get her to the vaccination centres despite her willingness to get vaccinated.
Speaking to Malaysiakini, she said, “I knew nothing about the vaccine. Nobody had told me anything. I only know about it now because Covid-19 is becoming more prevalent. As for the vaccine roll-out, I truly didn’t know.
“Anyway, I live alone at home and my children are working outstation. If only the hospital officials had come to my area to offer explanations and even injections at home, maybe I would be able to get it.
“I want the vaccine since it is good for me but it’s hard for me to commute.”
According to the Kelantan Health Minister Dr Zaini Husin, only 66,314 out of the 125,744 individuals over 60 showed up for their vaccination under phase 2 of the immunisation programme in Kelantan.
Previously, it was reported that over 10,000 citizens of Kelantan, specifically those over the age of 60, failed to show-up for their appointments.
Other than Mek Nab, Mah Abdul Rahman, 75, was also unaware of how to properly register for the vaccine despite hearing about it all over town. Both women undergo difficulties with transportation as well.
She explained to Malaysiakini, “I heard the village people talking about the vaccine but I did not have a phone to register using the proper channels. Of course, at my age, I’m not the most knowledgeable about things like this. How could I possibly register if I don’t even own a smartphone?
“I can only walk around my area because I have no transportation. Now, I’m afraid to go out because of Covid-19. I’m a widow and I only have one child and they work outside of Kelantan so it’s hard for me to hitch a ride with them if I did register and had to go for the appointment.”
As for Mah Hussin who is also 75-years-old living in Kota Bharu, she admits that her health has affected her will to register for the vaccine.
Since she needs to go to a vaccination centre, she believes her body can’t withstand the arduous process of waiting due to her existing health problems. She said, “I’m 75 years old, I don’t have the energy to go to the hospital since I get tired very easily and I suffer from shortness of breath.
“If the hospital could come over and inject the vaccine at my house, then people like me would find it easier to receive the vaccine specially since our kids are off working. My child works at a factory and because of their limited days off, they can’t assist me.”
Married couple Mohd Nor Abd Rahman, 73, and Bidah Daud, 75, also expressed their woes and frustrations.
With Bidah being a sweeper at Klinik Desa Kampung Aril, they have reasons to believe that she could easily be exposed to the virus due to the crowd that gathers there while she works.
The both of them agree with the idea of visits to the home instead of having to go to the vaccination centre.
To add a personal anecdote, Covid-19 has since turned my world upside down when 6 of my relatives in Perak contracted the virus recently.
Being from a secluded village with a small population, the severity of this disease was not well conveyed to my family and because of that, we had to pay the price.
For high-risk patients who are above the age of 60, contracting the virus signals a fight to the death and unfortunately for my family, one of my relatives did not make it out victorious.
While we are grateful for the unflinching kindness and tenacity of the frontliners when it comes to handling Covid-19 patients, people like my grandmother and my other relatives need assistance.
How can I expect my grandmother to register for the vaccine when she does not even own a smartphone? In fact, how can I expect her to remember the dangers of Covid-19 when she can’t even remember if she’s eaten that day?
The virus is not exclusive to town-folk who own various smartphones, fast Wifi and working cars. It is everywhere and we need to be cognisant of its dangers, especially to those who aren’t equipped to fight it.