MALAYSIA must commit to providing equitable access to vaccines for everyone in Malaysia, regardless of nationality, which includes providing vaccines for free to migrant workers.
Failing to do so will risk squandering the opportunity to overcome the pandemic by falling short of achieving high vaccination rates across the nation.
According to a Khazanah Research Institute report entitled COVID-19: The Case of Vaccinating Migrants, Too, leading experts currently predict that more than 60% – 70% (or even as high as 90%) of the population must be vaccinated to achieve a vaccine-induced herd immunity.
While the National Vaccination Plan projects aim to immunise about 80% of the Malaysian population, it should not be based on their legal status.
“As such, to reach the high threshold for herd immunity against COVID-19, 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,” the KRI stated in the report.
Ensuring free and equitable access to vaccines for migrants is especially important considering that not all Malaysians may be able to be vaccinated, such as newborns and those with certain health conditions for whom vaccines may not be medically-advisable.
Currently, no vaccine has been authorised or approved to be administered to children, pending further clinical trials, despite these groups may still be susceptible to getting COVID-19.
“Migrants are an integral part of the Malaysian society and thus must be given equal Protection,” the KRI added.
Locally, foreign workers make up 32% of the agriculture sector, 23% of the construction sector and 22% of the manufacturing sector.
“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,” KRI said.
“We cannot let differences of nationality undermine the hard work and heroic sacrifice made by scientists, healthcare workers, and the public throughout the pandemic. The virus does not care about nationality, likewise our Government must prioritise public health for all so we can successfully find our way out of this pandemic,” it concluded. – Feb 8, 2021