Report: Sidelined from NSC, minister jabs govt over vaccines and PPVs

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Special Functions Minister Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof claimed he is no longer invited to National Security Council (NSC) meetings on Covid-19.

Speaking to Malaysiakini, the Bersatu lawmaker questioned the government’s handling of the pandemic, especially with regard to the vaccination drive.

“As of now, I am not a member of the NSC. I used to be. I do not know what is going on. The last time I was with NSC was before Hari Raya (Aidilfitri),” he said.

According to Redzuan, he should be part of the discussions as the minister in charge of the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma).

Conceding that it is Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s prerogative to decide who should be involved in the decision-making process, the Alor Gajah MP said he is disappointed.

“I am the minister in charge (of Nadma). I mean, if we look at the gazette, I should be looking at it (the Covid-19 disaster).

“It is up to the prime minister. If we want to manage a disaster, then there is a certain way to do it, based on one’s capabilities.

“But if the prime minister does not see Nadma as the one that should manage a disaster, then why park the portfolio under the special functions minister?” he asked.

Speculating on his removal, Redzuan said it could be due to the leadership not wanting “too many cooks to spoil the soup” and that he is perceived to be a junior in politics compared with the other ministers.

“Sometimes people look at me as someone who is new in politics. So, they measure my capabilities as someone junior. This is what I think.

“I have never been in the cabinet before Pakatan Harapan (formed the government). The others have been in politics much longer.

“It is up to the prime minister on whether he wants to give the responsibility to the minister who is already in charge or a minister who has more experience in politics,” Redzuan added.

Malaysiakini has contacted the Prime Minister’s Office and Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who oversees NSC, for comment.

At the time of writing, Ismail replied that Malaysiakini should check with the council. However, the members of NSC’s top brass have not responded to queries on this matter.

‘Inconsistency in vaccine approval’

As for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP), Redzuan felt that more could be done.

He questioned the decision to accept certain vaccines but not others that have received approval from their countries of origin and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“In Malaysia, we have the law that medicine brought into the country must get approval from the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) or the product can be confiscated.

“But during an emergency, the general should be able to invoke his authority to overrule NPRA.

“For example, if the world can accept vaccines which received the EUL (Emergency Use Listing) from their countries of origin and WHO, we should be using them to have a more diverse supply of vaccines.

“We cannot rely only on Covax and NPRA to approve. Today, there are other vaccines like Sputnik V and Sinopharm,” he added.

Claiming there is inconsistency in the approval process, Redzuan noted how the Sinovac vaccine from China received a conditional nod from NPRA in March.

“Before Sinovac received its recent WHO approval, the vaccine had received EUL from its country of origin. However, there are other vaccines that have EUL from their countries of origin but until today, they are not approved by NPRA.

“We need to be consistent. Why is NPRA not facilitating to add more vaccine supply to what we already have?

“In my opinion, we are now in an emergency. We can invoke our powers over NPRA based on the EUL from the countries of origin and WHO. What is our problem? This is what raises many questions from the perspective of management,” he added.

Utilise existing facilities

Redzuan was also critical of the government’s handling of the inoculation process, including the focus on setting up mega vaccine centres, better known as PPVs.

He said while such facilities might be good for large cities to prevent overcrowding, the government should instead utilise existing facilities nationwide to make it easier for the public to get vaccinated.

“Why do we need to spend hundreds of millions of ringgit to set up mega PPVs, which cost the government a lot of money when we are facing the challenge of a fiscal deficit?

“Why do we need to spend on purchasing new curtains, partitions, tables and chairs to put at these PPVs, when we can mobilise our clinics?

“Pharmaniaga has been the government’s contractor as a logistics company. It can collect all the vaccines and send them to all the outlets, then the people can just go there, bring their documents, get their jab and scan the QR code for records in MySejahtera,” he added.

Furthermore, Redzuan said, the government has immense human resources, which could be mobilised to speed up the NIP.

For example, he said, the Civil Defence Force (CDF), an agency under Nadma, has more than 2.2 million volunteers.

“We can use the CDF. We have the infrastructure, although not as big as other agencies, it would suffice to assist. We can mobilise them to help, and it won’t involve high costs,” he added.

Redzuan revealed that he had raised these issues with the prime minister both “directly and indirectly”. – Malaysiakini