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[2925] Free COVID-19 vaccines for more people, and not just Malaysians

Vaccines for COVID-19 will be made free for Malaysians, said the Prime Minister. That is good but there is an issue here. A big gap. Foreigners will have to pay for it.[1]

I am thinking the vaccines should be made free for low-income foreign workers as well. I say so because as we have seen, the strength of our community response towards COVID-19 is as good as our weakest links. And the low-income foreign worker community is part of those links. Regardless how we like to marginalize them, they are part of our Malaysian community.

In the past few weeks, we have seen Malaysia’s total cases spiking over and over again. There is no guarantee that we have seen the global peak. The worst is yet to come.

Daily new Covid-19 cases

Given the trend and the government’s actions of late, it seems they have given up the fight for containment. Instead, they are betting on the arrival of the vaccines. I feel this is the wrong position to take because while the first vaccines should arrive next year, it will not be enough to cover sufficient portion of the population until 2022 or 2023. That is a long way to go and it will necessitate prioritization of recipients.

Regardless of the need to prioritize, a good chunk of the cases involve transmission among low-income foreign workers. The government has long given a minimal damn about it, but COVID-19 is making that lackadaisical attitude a luxury even for a bunch of racists. If the foreign worker transmissions are not managed well, it could threaten to spill over to the wider population, and make the already bad situation worse. This is especially so with the government’s weakening will to fight the pandemic as seen through inconsistent and hypocritical regulations and enforcement.

To prevent the spillover risk, I think it is necessary to vaccinate low-income foreign workers working at the construction sites, plantation grounds and factory floors for free. Or at least, subsidize the cost so it is cheap enough for them to get vaccinated.

Additionally, we may need to provide free, or cheap vaccine to long-term undocumented immigrants and this will have to come with amnesty. To fight COVID-19 fast and effectively, we need to vaccinate as many persons living in Malaysia as possible, regardless of their status. I would also make it compulsory.

Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

[1] — PUTRAJAYA (Nov 27): The Covid-19 vaccine will be given free to Malaysians but foreigners will have to pay a charge determined by the Ministry of Health, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today. The prime minister said the government has no plan to make the vaccination compulsory and the vaccine will be administered only to those who agree to take it voluntarily, particularly people at risk and prone to disease. [Bernama. Covid-19 vaccine to be given free to Malaysians, says PM Muhyiddin. The Edge Markets. November 27 2020.]