Covid-19: Health Ministry not forcing employers to get booster jabs for foreign workers

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is not forcing employers to get Covid-19 booster jabs for foreign workers they bring into the country, says Dr Zaliha Mustafa.

"It is not our responsibility to answer this. But I will answer from the angle of the ministry's policy. We only encourage whoever, whether local or foreign workers, to get the booster shots.

"It is up to the other agencies involved whether they want to come out with policies apart from that of the ministry," the Health Minister said.

She said this when replying to a supplementary question raised by Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (Muda-Muar) in the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday (March 8).

Syed Saddiq asked if recent reports were true regarding losses suffered by Pharmaniaga Bhd due to overstocking of Covid-19 vaccines and that the Health Ministry was forcing employers to bear the cost of providing booster jabs for foreign workers brought into the country.

On Tuesday (March 7), employers and business groups voiced their opposition to a suggestion that they provide Covid-19 booster jabs to their foreign workers.

Their concern comes after Pharmaniaga Bhd - the sole distributor of the Covid-19 vaccine in Malaysia - lost almost RM216mil or 38% of its market capitalisation in a week after a RM552mil vaccine provision due to slow-moving stocks of the vaccines.

On Saturday, its chief executive officer was reported to have raised the possibility of the vaccines being used as booster shots for foreign workers.

On the second booster jab, Dr Zaliha said that response was still not very encouraging.

She said there had been a slight increase in those getting their second booster dose over the past few weeks.

"Previously, only 1.9% had taken their second booster dose. This increased to 2.2% over the past few weeks following calls for more to get their booster dose," she said.

Earlier, Dr Zaliha said she will provide Datuk Rosol Wahid (PN-Hulu Terengganu) with a breakdown of the cost of disposing unused Covid-19 vaccines.

On the Covid-19 situation, Dr Zaliha said that the number of daily infections had stabilised in January.

"Over the past month, the daily Covid-19 cases in the country remained around 500 cases with a downward trend seen with 226 cases on March 7," she said.

She also said that the seven-day average of new cases remained between 187 and 511 in January.

Dr Zaliha added that the Rt (rate of transmission) had dropped from 1.0 at the end of last year to 0.8 in January.

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