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MIRI, Oct 19 -- The Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) will find ways to get the Penans, a minority ethnic group in Ulu Baram, who refused or objected being vaccinated against COVID-19 to get their jabs soon.
Its chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said the government would seek the assistance of non-governmental organisations and elected representatives to find ways to persuade them.
"We are now ready with the supply of CanSino vaccine. This single dose vaccine is a good option for them and our medical personnel are coming to their areas," he said in a statement after attending a briefing on Miri Division COVID-19 booster dose and adolescent vaccination programmes here today.
Uggah said Miri Division health officer Dr Raviwharmman Packierisamy told him that they had tried six different engagements to persuade the Penans to be vaccinated.
"We have tried through government officers, elected representatives, influential members of the community, non-government organisations and Borneo Evangelical Malaysia (a religious body) to persuade them (the Penans) but to no avail.
"While they have no issue with normal medical treatment or procedures, they freeze out and reject the jab outright. They will even disappear into the deep jungle when our vaccination teams arrive. This situation remains one of our great challenges in our vaccination programme roll out, " Dr Raviwharmman said.
The Miri Division health officer said the Penans in Baram were unlike those in Belaga district in the Kapit Division whom he learnt from the Divisional Resident Nyurak Keti to be more receptive.
Meanwhile, as this small ethnic group live scattered in some six different settlements in Ulu Baram, Uggah agreed to a suggestion by Dr Raviwharmman for a voluntary medical team led by doctors from the state Health Department, as well as retired medical personnel from Baram to visit these settlements.
"The team will go to interior places to give medical and dental treatment for a few days. They have developed close rapport with the locals and have also gained their trust. The state government is ready to provide the team with some financial assistance in order to help the Penans,” he said.
He added that SDMC is also considering providing booster dose to eligible frontliners in the state who are not medical personnel.