KUALA LUMPUR: Foreigners living in Malaysia will receive the COVID-19 vaccine for free when Putrajaya rolls out its immunisation programme from end-February.
In a media statement released on Thursday (Feb 11), Malaysia’s COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Committee stressed that Malaysians will be prioritised to receive the vaccination doses but maintained that the decision to include foreigners is key to the success of the programme.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had previously announced in November that COVID-19 vaccines will be given for free to Malaysians, adding that the government has no plan to make the vaccination compulsory.
The latest statement added that the Cabinet approved the decision after considering factors such as how foreign workers encompass a big portion of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia’s existing COVID-19 clusters, especially those in the construction, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
The statement outlined that infections as a result of foreign workers clusters have "high costs" due to treatment and quarantine procedures.
Furthermore, the committee added that an environment free from COVID-19 will only be achieved when as many residents in Malaysia as possible are vaccinated.
"Foreign workers have become part of our community and also contribute to the country's economy," the statement said.
The committee also noted that some countries have provided free vaccination for Malaysians who are based there.
"During this pandemic period, vaccine distribution is a humane move," the statement added.
The committee added that the decision to offer vaccination to foreigners for free was made also because the number of doses obtained by the Malaysian government exceeds the number of Malaysian citizens who are qualified to be inoculated.
"It is also in line with the government's stand to give the vaccine to as many in the Malaysian population as possible so as to achieve herd immunity in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement said.
The committee outlined that the schedule for vaccination of foreigners will be announced in the future.
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Last week, Health Minister Adham Baba said Malaysia would receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines a week earlier, before the first phase of the national COVID-19 immunisation plan begins on Feb 26.
He said the vaccine needed to arrive earlier so that the 7,000 individuals tasked with providing the vaccination can be vaccinated first, according to Bernama.
"We need to prioritise those who are assigned to provide the vaccination, and 7,000 vaccinators have been chosen for early shots," he was quoted as saying.
Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said earlier that once delivered, the first batch of vaccines will be distributed nationwide over a period of one to two weeks.
In November, Malaysia said it had agreed to buy 12.8 million doses of the vaccine jointly developed by the US drugmaker Pfizer and and German partner BioNTech.
In January, Malaysia signed a second deal with Pfizer to secure an additional 12.2 million doses of their vaccine.
The Southeast Asian nation also signed agreements to secure 18.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines produced by Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute and China's Sinovac.
On Wednesday, Malaysia reported 3,288 new COVID-19 cases, most of which were in the Klang Valley. The total number of cases stood at 251,604, with 923 deaths.