By Dr Rabiah Tul Adawiyah Mohamed Salleh, Covid Psychosocial Support, IIUM

“Congratulations! You have been shortlisted for COVID-19  vaccination scheduled on:

Date : 17th/18th August 2021

Venue : ICC, IIUM

Sponsor : SELVAX (Selangor Vaccination Programme)

Participants :  Staff And Dependents Who Have Not Received Any Vaccination Yet”

When I received this email, my first response was to breathe a sigh of relief. Finally. I have completed both doses of COVID-19 vaccine in July, but my other half, who lives in a different state (we are a long-distance couple), had yet to receive any vaccine appointment up till mid-August. As he lives in a Phase 2 state in terms of the National Recovery Plan (NRP), there is more freedom in terms of movement, and the restrictions are far more eased than states in Phase 1 of the NRP. However, the virus does not see the phases–the more people are lax in practicing the Standard Operating Procedures, the easier it is for the virus to plague the nation. This situation, coupled with reports that cases have risen all over the globe owing to the spread of the pernicious Delta variant, made me anxious every single day the other half went out of the house unvaccinated. 

IIUM as a Vaccine Dispensing Centre or Pusat Pemberian Vaksin (PPV) is the outcome of the collaboration between the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and the Selangor state government to expedite achieving herd immunity in the state. At the macro level, we only see these two giant entities (IIUM and the Selangor state government) responsible for dispensing the vaccine, which, as repeatedly mentioned, will pave the way to herd immunity and hopefully enable our pre-pandemic equilibrium to be restored. We need to remember that vaccine dispensing operation to the community is no easy feat–it is a colossal effort and requires the involvement of many parties at the grassroots level. As I accompanied my other half that day, I was genuinely impressed by how smooth and efficient the operation was. In this piece, I attempt to pen some of the processes I saw and the personnel I met that had made this operation successful. 

A long line was already forming at ICC when we (my other half and I) arrived at 9 am on the stipulated date. The team who kept people in line were the security personnel, known as OSEM in IIUM. They ensured that physical distancing was being followed and instructed people where to stand, lest the crowds got too close to each other. 

Security personnel, OSEM, hard at work outside IIUM PPV, 17th-18th August 2021

As people in the queue moved to enter the hall, another team was seen assiduously assisting people to fill in a form and the Selangkah mobile app (Selangkah is a MySejahtera equivalent, developed by the Selangor state government). This is the Vaksin Selangor team (SelVax), the administration team responsible for overseeing the operation in the PPV. The SelVax team consisted of volunteers from all walks of life who came together to contribute to the community. Several of the SelVax volunteers whom I had the privilege to talk to told me that regardless of their non-medical background, they are more than willing to learn and help the medical frontliners during this health crisis. In addition to the SelVax team, another team of volunteers comprising IIUM staff and students was also present to facilitate the process. This team, wearing yellow vests, not only helped vaccine recipients fill in the required form and app, but by virtue of being familiar with the site, these volunteers also helped the recipients feel comfortable and more relaxed in the environment. 

Some volunteers from the SelVax team (from left: Melissa, Norhayati, Shuhada and Zahirah)
IIUM volunteers helping vaccine recipients at the venue
More IIUM volunteers helping vaccine recipients at the venue

To ensure a smooth and safe running of the process, several steps and precautions were put in place before the recipients received the shot. 

  1. From the entrance to inside the hall

At the designated entrance, vaccine recipients were required to provide proof of their appointment. In this case, as the programme is under SelVax, the vaccination details were verified through the Selangkah app. As I mentioned earlier, there were many volunteers around the venue  (SelVax and IIUM) to assist the recipients in keying in their details in the app. Vaccine recipients’ temperature was also scanned and their COVID-19 status in MySejahtera checked prior to entering the hall.

  1. After entering the hall to Station 1 

Once vaccine recipients entered the hall, they were seated first to wait their turn to go to Station 1. Station 1 was for registration as well as temperature and symptom screening. Depending on the time of the appointment, there could be a slight waiting time at each station. There was ample space in the hall and plenty of seats so the recipients could wait for their turn safely in a physically distanced manner.

  1. 3. From Station 1 to Station 2

After completing the registration and the screening process, vaccine recipients proceeded to Station 2 (for vaccine consultation and submission of consent form). Here, they had the opportunity to ask questions regarding the vaccination process, possible side effects that may occur and any medical questions pertaining to the vaccine. 

Vaccine recipients may ask questions about the vaccine at Station 2

4. From consent to finally being jabbed at Station 3

Once vaccine recipients had submitted their consent form, they finally moved to Station 3 where the vaccine was administered. Here in IIUM PPV, the vaccine counters are divided into two booths: female-only and male-only booths. For female recipients, such an arrangement made them feel very secure and comfortable when they had to roll up their sleeves upon receiving the shot.  I must say this is very Shariah-compliant indeed!

Station 3 female-only booth, operated by all-female vaccinators
Station 3 male-only booth, operated by all-male vaccinators

5. Station 4: Second dose appointment and observation

Now, the vaccine has been successfully administered! At this stage, vaccine recipients proceeded to Station 4 where they would get their second dosage appointment date as well as a vaccination card.  Once they received these, they were required to stay on-site at the observation bay for 15 minutes. The volunteers would observe and monitor the recipients in case they manifest any adverse reaction to the vaccine within this period. The process was also made easier by the Selangkah app which has a built-in 15-minute observation period countdown as its feature. 

Vaccine recipients receiving their second-dose appointment at Station 4
The spacious on-site observation area

6. The very important photo op!

Now that the recipients have been vaccinated, what better way to celebrate the moment than by taking the all-important photograph at the designated photo booth(s)? Since IIUM PPV is a collaborative effort between IIUM and the Selangor state government, there were two photo booths for recipients to choose from! The IIUM photo booth was so unique and pretty that I could not resist taking a photo of myself there too!

Vaccine recipients were spoilt for choice as there were two uniquely different photo booths
Although not a vaccine recipient that day, I could not resist taking a photo at the IIUM photo booth

The efficient running of the operation and the amiable and incredible volunteers, both from the SelVax team and IIUM team, had created a hospitable and joyous ambiance that was a stark contrast to the incessant ever-dreary mood portrayed on the media whenever reports about COVID-19 appeared. Before leaving the PPV, I had the opportunity to meet the director of the operation, Dr. Mohammad Farhan Rusli, IIUM’s public health specialist. We thanked him for his tireless efforts to ensure that the IIUM community and people in the surrounding proximities are inoculated. Dr Mohammad Farhan remarked “I cannot emphasise enough how crucial the vaccine is and the urgent need for everyone to get the jabs as soon as they can in our community. The pandemic had had a profound impact on us as a society and this is the only way we may return to some semblance of normalcy. Anything I can do to help end the pandemic and make the vaccine accessible for everyone, I am all in. If you have any family members who are yet to be vaccinated, please ask them to get vaccinated here in IIUM”. 

Dr Mohammad Farhan Rusli with a custom-made IIUM syringe-model

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