Thorny issue of the unvaccinated


OFFICIAL reports published in recent weeks indicate that Malaysia will be moving into the “endemic” stage of the Covid-19 pandemic. This brings hope that some form of normalcy will be restored soon.

But as more of us dine in at our favourite restaurants or use public transport, many might be wondering if the persons they come into contact with are vaccinated or not. I must admit that I also ask this question even after receiving my booster shot last week.

According to COVIDNOW, 20.2% of the Malaysian population remain unvaccinated to date. In other words, one in five people has not received any Covid-19 vaccine at all.

For now, there is no law in Malaysia that makes it mandatory for the general public to be vaccinated.

The uncomfortable truth is a section of the population cannot and will not be vaccinated. Some are medically unfit to be vaccinated while others are holding on to their respective political and religious beliefs. These reasons are ultimately personal ones that must be respected.

The population must be confident that the government’s immunisation efforts are legitimately focused on protecting the public’s health. That said, one can hardly identify forums between public officials and stakeholders to promote the government’s vaccination drive or transparency of the vaccines’ approval process.

Instead, sometime in October 2021, the Health Minister announced the government’s stance to “make life very difficult” for those who are unvaccinated. Then the Public Service Department issued a circular making it mandatory for all federal civil servants to be inoculated by November 2021. Those who failed to do so would face disciplinary action or termination of their service.

Any failure to create the necessary check and balance would enable the government to exercise its discretion without control. Arbitrary imposition of a mandatory vaccination policy without the necessary exemptions may cause injustice and discrimination, and is contrary to Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, which provides for equal protection of the law to all persons.

Lest we forget, Covid-19 does not cherry-pick nor discriminate against anyone. Therefore, the focus of laws and policies moving forward should be to ensure that everyone – vaccinated or otherwise – continues to have unimpeded access to education, public transport, work and medical treatment. Lawmakers cannot simply brush aside the difficult task of balancing the interests of unvaccinated individuals and the safety of the public at large.

ALVIN DEV SINGH

Kuala Lumpur

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