More calls on free Covid-19 vaccine for migrants

Any good public health management especially for infectious disease must be across the board and should not be selective in rolling out the vaccines


VARIOUS parties have called on the government to provide Covid-19 vaccines for free to migrants without any consideration of nationality or social status to ensure the herd immunity objective is achieved.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia commissioner Jerald Joseph said a good public health management particularly with infectious diseases would make vaccines free-for-all.

“Any good public health management especially for infectious diseases must be across the board covering foreign workers, asylum seekers, refugees and stateless people who are in our land.

“Of course, the vaccination plan by the Health Ministry will be followed which prioritises high-risk groups first,” Joseph told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) yesterday.

He said the pandemic affects everyone, hence, the public health management should not be selective in rolling out the vaccines.

If employers are asked to pay for the vaccination of their workers, he said a common fund could be created to allow private sectors to contribute and help in the vaccination programme be accessible to everyone.

Our Journey director Sumitha Shaanthinni Kishna said there should not be any discrimination on the availability and accessibility of the vaccine.

“Ideally, it should be free from the government. Many countries are providing vaccines for free for nationals and non-nationals. Malaysia should study that system,” she told TMR.

She said cost, nationality or a person’s legal status should not be a factor for depriving one of the vaccines.

Khazanah Research Institute researchers, Nazihah Muhamad Noor and Yin Shao Loong, said Malaysia must commit to providing equitable access to vaccines for everyone in the country regardless of nationality, or the country risks squandering the opportunity to overcome the pandemic.

They said this includes providing vaccines for free to migrants in Malaysia in order to ensure maximum protection for all.

“The forthcoming National Vaccination Plan (NVP) projects immunising some 80% of the Malaysian population within 18 months. It is important to note that the threshold for achieving herd immunity is not based on the proportion of immune citizens, rather it should be based on the proportion of immune people, regardless of their legal status,” the researchers said in a report yesterday.

Nazihah and Yin said non-citizens, who officially make up 10% of the Malaysian population, must be included in the government’s national plan to vaccinate the population, whether they be foreign workers, undocumented migrants, refugees or stateless people.

They added that charging may deter migrants or their employers from vaccination, which can prevent the country from achieving the high targets in the NVP.

Hence, they said the most effective option is to ensure free access to vaccines regardless of nationality as no one is safe until everyone is safe.

Foreign workers make up 32% of the agriculture sector, construction (23%) and manufacturing (22%), all of which have been designated as essential sectors throughout the various Movement Control Orders in Malaysia since the start of the pandemic.

Nazihah and Yin said migrants’ jobs and their poor living conditions often put them at higher risk for contracting Covid-19 as they may not always be able to practise precautionary behaviours such as physical distancing and frequent handwashing.

“We cannot consider their labour to be essential to the functioning of the country’s economy, yet at the same time refuse to provide them with potentially life-saving medical intervention.

“We cannot value their labour more than we do their lives,” they added.

Read our earlier report

Urgent to have holistic approach for Covid-19