MHTC: Covid-19 vaccine tourism a possibility, but Malaysians first

It is only right to prioritise Malaysians to ensure a herd immunity can be achieved

by AZALEA AZUAR / pic by ARIF KARTONO

COVID-19 vaccine tourism is possible, but the priority for vaccination should remain with Malaysians, Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) acting CEO Yazmin Azman said.

Yazmin said there had been discussions with some parties such as the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) on the idea of a Covid-19 vaccine tourism.

However, she said it is only right to prioritise Malaysians to ensure a herd immunity can be achieved.

“Of course, there are opportunities around looking at how people can fly in for the vaccine. But in general, all vaccines are double-dose which can only be administered 21 days apart.

“So, there is a question of whether a visitor who comes here to get vaccinated should be quarantined before the second jab, and things like that,” she told The Malaysian Reserve after the launch of “A Hundred Unsung Heroes” e-book yesterday.

Even beyond the Covid-19 vaccines, Yazmin felt that there had always been demand from foreigners to come and get medical treatment in Malaysia as the supplies here can be trusted.

“We actually see a lot of foreigners that come for treatments in Malaysia because they trust our healthcare system more than that of their home countries.

“Many foreigners have always looked at Malaysia as a trusted destination for vaccinations,” she explained.

Some private hospitals in the country have been appointed as Covid-19 vaccination centres to help the government with the national immunisation pro-gramme, but currently, they are not offered to private consumers until the vaccine supply stabilises.

“Once private hospitals can offer the vaccines at a price, then there is a possibility for medical tourists to come and vaccinate here as well,” said Yazmin.

Although Malaysia’s borders are closed since the first Movement Control Order (MCO) last year, there has been an exemption for medical tourists under strict standard operating procedures.

“We have actually seen quite a lot of demand coming in from countries like Indonesia, Korea and Singapore.

“We have had critical patients requesting to come for treatment and for us, allowing this is the humanitarian thing to do,” she added.

In conjunction with the one-year anniversary of the MCO, MHTC launched the “A Hundred Unsung Heroes” e-book to highlight front- liners’ efforts in curbing Covid-19.

Yazmin said it is a small gesture of gratitude to the frontliners for their relentless spirit and monumental efforts in keeping the Covid-19 infections under control.

“The e-book provides a fresh perspective to the frontliners’ journey in Malaysia, documenting a hundred stories that showcase the grit and resilience of ordinary Malaysians in a global crisis.

“These stories, shared from the frontliners themselves, cover various public and private sectors such as healthcare, the armed forces, police, immigration, NGOs and e-commerce,” she said.

Yazmin added that frontliners have invested their time and energy for the nation’s health and safety by sacrificing their own wellbeing.

“Their stories are reflective of the ‘Kita Jaga Kita’ spirit, going above and beyond in the toughest of circumstances.

“This initiative also underlines how the battle against Covid-19 requires a collective effort, not just from the frontliners, but from the community as a whole,” Yazmin noted.

“A Hundred Unsung Heroes” e-book can be downloaded at https://malaysiahealthcare.org/unsung-heroes/.