The Malaysian government has announced that foreigners, including Cambodian migrant workers, in the country can get COVID-19 vaccine for free after considering the high number of foreign workers who tested positive for the virus.
A statement issued by the Special Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Committee (JKJAV) yesterday summarised that infections as a result of foreign workers clusters have “high costs” due to treatment and quarantine procedures.
“Foreign workers have become part of our community and also contribute to the country’s economy,” the statement said.
It said the committee said that an environment free from COVID-19 will only be achieved when as many residents in Malaysia as possible are inoculated.
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.
“The schedule for vaccination of foreigners will be announced in the future,” the committee said.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday: “Our embassy in Malaysia already knows about this.”
He said that Cambodian migrant workers must follow the Malaysian Ministry of Health measures consistently.
According to the Ministry of Labour, there are currently 25,149 Cambodians living and working in Malaysia.
As companies slash salaries and employment to deal with the economic shock of the pandemic, thousands of low-wage and low-skilled migrant workers in Malaysia have been among the most vulnerable. The International Labor Organization (ILO) said in a report that there have been cases of migrant workers being unfairly terminated or not getting paid by their employers when Malaysia’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown was first imposed in March.
The ILO also said that most Malaysian government support measures don’t cover migrant workers, and trade unions and other organisations have stepped in to help the migrant workers, including by distributing food and providing shelter for them.
Dy Thehoya, the programme officer at labour rights group Central, said yesterday that the free vaccination for foreigners, including Cambodian migrant workers, is a good move taken by Malaysia.
He said Cambodian migrant workers should take the shots since the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which Malaysia is using has been approved by the World Health Organization under its Covax initiative.
Thehoya also requested the Cambodian government to pay attention to the plight of migrant workers who lost jobs due to the pandemic in Malaysia and help to repatriate them.
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.
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.