KUCHING,Feb 23: With Covid-19 vaccinations just days away, a Sarawak assemblyman has turned to using chat messages to help his rural constituents in longhouses to register for the vaccination.

Registration for the national immunisation campaign can be made through the MySejahtera app or at district offices and health clinics, but limited internet access and fears over exposure to the virus pose problems.

Marudi assemblyman Penguang Manggil said he hopes to overcome this challenge by having village heads use the WhatsApp messaging system as the means of registration.

“For now, we do not want anyone to enter longhouses in the rural areas as they may be exposed to Covid-19 so village heads collect the necessary information and submit it to the district health office via WhatsApp,” he told FMT.

Penguang, who is also Sarawak’s assistant minister of local government, said he is planning to propose the method with the state disaster management committee soon.

There have been concerns over how rural Sarawakians can register for the vaccination as many village heads have yet to receive registration forms.

Wayne Lawrence, a villager from Kampung Tellian Daya in Mukah, said although the Sarawak government has said people can register for the vaccines at district offices and clinics, registration through SMSs would be better.

He said they could at least receive text messages from the National Security Council and that this could be one way to reach areas with limited internet access.

“Perhaps MKN can send SMSs to villagers in the rural areas and they would only need to reply “Yes” or “No”, with their full name, identification number and the respective village name,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Kampung Melugu, Sri Aman, Sulie Abell expressed concerns over the lack of information on the vaccines in rural areas and said the use of SMSs could help.

“The people in my village are still afraid to sign up for the vaccination programme due to lack of awareness of the vaccine itself and they are also afraid that it might have side-effects which will harm their health,” she said.

“Although we can register at district offices, people in villages are afraid to move from place to place as they may be exposed to the virus,” she said, adding an option to register via SMS should be provided.


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