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EMIR Research proposes PICK budget be raised to RM6b for boosters, surveillance, among others

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 17): The National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) budget should be raised to RM6.115 billion for 2022, from RM5 billion for 2021, according to think tank EMIR Research.

EMIR Research head of science and technology Ameen Kamal said that the PICK programme is likely to be extended well into 2022 on immunological uncertainties.

“Accordingly, we need to ensure a high level of vaccination readiness and conduct the necessary studies to better inform ourselves of the state of the health crisis,” he added.

Ameen also highlighted key components that should see an increase in budget, namely vaccine procurement, post-immunisation surveillance, outsourcing of private medical practitioners and contingencies.

He said the sub-items worth RM3.5 billion allocated for vaccine procurement and logistics should be raised by RM1 billion to RM4.5 billion to allocate for boosters and updated vaccines.

For post-immunisation surveillance, Ameen called for an increase of RM45 million, bringing the allocation to RM60 million from 2021’s RM15 million, with both genomic analysis and serological studies increased to 3% of cases (from previously targeted 1%) as it is important to understand immunological uncertainties.

“This is crucial to inform validity of vaccination certificates and may provide information for vaccine procurement strategies, better treatment for severe cases and prevention of disease progression,” he added.

Additionally, he proposed that the previously allocated RM210 million for outsourcing private medical practitioners be increased by RM40 million to RM250 million, and noted that the government should embark on decentralisation strategies through designation of general practitioner (GP) clinics nationwide and private hospitals as vaccination centres.

“Therefore, there is a need to consider costs of equipping select GPs with the necessary storage and handling capacity for certain types of vaccines, while mega vaccination centres (PPVs) could be reserved for special circumstances,” he said.

Additionally, he added that it is crucial to have locally assigned GPs to monitor positive cases within the vicinity to avoid unattended disease progression, which could have contributed to the higher brought-in-dead cases recently.

He also said that allocation for rental and utilities for halls amounting to RM333 million should be maintained, but noted that moving forward, school halls should be used as PPVs if needed, which should have no rental cost and far cheaper utility costs.

Meanwhile, he said that the allocation for data integration and appointment systems should be reduced to RM50 million, down RM20 million from the current RM70 million, given that the systems had already been set up.

“The allocation for 2022 of RM50 million is proposed for the revival of the advanced predictive Hotspot Identification for Dynamic Engagement (HIDE) system, and upgrading the MySejahtera application with better contact tracing technology that could also be useful in future outbreaks,” he added.

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