A more open health ministry

PUTRAJAYA: Newly-minted health minister Khairy Jamaluddin has pledged that the ministry will be more transparent in its work with the release of more detailed, granular data.

In his first press conference as health minister, Khairy said the ministry will be distributing more detailed data which will be open-source and easily available to the public.

He said this included data on adverse effects suffered following immunisation (AEFI), promising to release a “huge amount” of data on the matter next week.

“A lot of data is already listed openly. Now, the health ministry’s work culture will be based on transparency, so there will be no question of stonewalling or secrecy,” he said.

Khairy also stressed that there have been no deaths reported with any causal link to the Covid-19 vaccines.

Through the existing National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency’s AEFI reporting system, he said, the overall rate reported was 0.53 instances per 1,000 doses. Out of this, 0.04 per 1,000 doses were categorised as serious AEFI.

Transparency has long been a point of contention during the pandemic, with some accusing the health ministry under Khairy’s predecessor Dr Adham Baba of not being open enough with its data.

In January, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim called for greater transparency in Covid-19 statistics and vaccinations, at a time when daily cases hovered in the region of 3,000.

While additional data on deaths and positivity rate have recently begun to be shared by the health ministry, testing numbers have not been made readily available.

Similarly, public health experts Dr Amar Singh and Dr Khor Swee Kheng both called for more granular data early last month in an open letter, citing its importance in making policy decisions.

“Without granular data, we are unable to understand the needs down to the district/state level, cannot get a profile of risk, have difficulty monitoring the outbreak regionally, and may not be able to respond to local health service needs,” the pair said.

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