MALAYSIANS will not be safe from Covid-19 until everyone in the country is safe.
Therefore, the Cabinet should be commended for deciding to provide the Covid-19 vaccine to foreign nationals residing in the country – including migrant workers and refugees.
As Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has pointed out, even if all Malaysian citizens received Covid-19 immunisation, we would not be fully safe as the country has around three million foreigners living and working within the community who could spread the virus.
“That is why this (giving free vaccines to non-citizens) needs to be done because we are not safe until everyone is safe.
“In vaccine science, if there are more vaccine recipients, then we are safe and the virus cannot infect others, ” said Khairy, who is also coordinating the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.
He has also explained that another reason for giving free vaccines to foreigners is in the hope that other countries would make reciprocal decisions and assist Malaysians living in their countries.
As we know, the Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus does not discriminate.
It does not recognise borders, much less citizenship.
While some are arguing that we should not be spending our tax money on foreigners, it must be noted that this is a move backed by science.
Although figures vary, scientists estimate that between 70% and 85% of the population will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to achieve herd immunity.
In Malaysia, we are targeting 80% of the population, or 26.5 million people, to create herd immunity and form enough resistance to the spread of Covid-19. Research has shown that for effective immunisation, vaccination should not only be given to the most vulnerable and those with the highest fatality rate, but also to those with the highest person-to-person interactions.
According to Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, workplaces are the most high-risk locations for Covid-19 infection in the country.
This makes vaccinating foreign workers essential if we are to cut transmission of the coronavirus and preserve the functioning of society.Crucially, the government has assured that priority will be given to Malaysians when it rolls out the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme for free in three phases at the end of this month.
From February to April, the first phase is for about half a million frontliners directly involved in the fight against the virus.
The second phase from April to August is for high-risk groups of senior citizens, aged 60 and above, and vulnerable groups with morbidity problems such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, and the disabled.
The third phase is for adults, aged 18 and above, from this May to February next year.
The immunisation of foreigners will be announced later.
Ultimately, we need to remember that vaccination is not the silver bullet to beat Covid-19.
Even after we are vaccinated, we will still need to adhere to the SOP.
We will also need to continue observing the recommended health measures such as wearing a mask and regular handwashing if we are to reduce the risk of getting Covid-19 and hopefully eliminate the virus. As for non-citizens, immunisation will not be effective if we do not make healthcare accessible for all, and if employers do not address the issue of proper housing for their migrant workers and improve their living conditions.
As the past year has shown, we are in this fight together, and if we are to win, we will need to empower everyone.
#KitaJagaKita means we take care of all those living in the country, not only our families and friends but also our neighbours – Malaysians and non-Malaysians.
As the government has said, no one is safe until all are safe.