Malaysia offers Covid-19 vaccinations to foreign residents, undocumented migrants

11 February 2021 - 08:59 By Reuters
Foreign workers wait in line to be tested for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outside a clinic in Kajang, Malaysia.
Foreign workers wait in line to be tested for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outside a clinic in Kajang, Malaysia.
Image: REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Photo

Malaysia will extend its free Covid-19 vaccination programme to all foreigners residing in the country, including students, refugees and undocumented migrants, the government said on Thursday.

The Southeast Asian country is expected to begin its vaccine rollout at the end of this month, aiming to cover at least 80% of its 32 million population within a year.

“A safe environment free from Covid-19 can only be achieved when as many Malaysian residents as possible are immunised,” the government committee on vaccine supply said in a statement.

“During a pandemic, providing vaccinations is a humanitarian step.”

Minister of health Zweli Mkhize hosted a public briefing on February 10 2021 to address the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine's lack of effectiveness against the 501Y.V2 strand of Covid-19. The minister also gave a revised plan of the country's vaccine rollout.

The committee, however, said priority will be given to Malaysians, with the vaccination schedule for foreigners to be announced at a later date.

Separately, science minister Khairy Jamaluddin said foreigners eligible for free vaccinations will include asylum seekers registered with the UN refugee agency UNHCR and undocumented migrants.

"(The committee) will be discussing further on how this can be implemented,” he said on Twitter, adding that authorities will bring in state governments, foreign embassies and non-government organisations to assist in vaccine distribution.

Malaysia has secured more than enough vaccines to reach its targets after agreeing supply deals with US  drugmaker Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute as well as China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd and CanSino Biologics.

It had also secured two separate vaccine shipments from AstraZeneca PLC, including one arranged under the global COVAX facility.

The first shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines is expected to arrive on Feb. 26.

Malaysia has seen a sharp spike in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, after having largely reined in the epidemic for most of last year.

That has pushed total cases past 250,000, including 923 deaths, as of Wednesday.

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