COVID-19 | The government has yet to decide on whether to enforce mandatory Covid-19 vaccination under the second and third phases of the National Covid-19 Immunisation programme, in the event of a low take-up rate for the free vaccines.
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said for now, the government retains its stand that Covid-19 vaccination is a voluntary exercise.
"We will see in future if there are really not that many (volunteers); we will perhaps consider another policy," he said during a press conference at KLIA this morning after the arrival of the first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
While their numbers are unclear, followers of a global anti-vaccine movement or individuals sceptical towards specific makes of Covid-19 vaccine had voiced resistance towards the final aim to achieve herd immunity.
The immunisation programme is divided into three phases, with the first scheduled from Feb 24 to April for frontline personnel in health and non-health sectors.
The second phase is scheduled to start from April to August for senior citizens aged 60 and above and vulnerable groups with morbidity issues; while the third phase is to be from May to February 2022 for those aged 18 and above.
Meanwhile, Khairy also reiterated that the cabinet has agreed to set up a scheme to protect and compensate any Covid-19 vaccine recipients found to have directly suffered from serious side effects.
"This scheme is to offer protection and ex gratia payment to anyone found with serious side effects that can be directly linked to the vaccine administration," he said.
Singapore, which started its free vaccination programme earlier this year, had announced a similar Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme targeting those who develop serious side effects, are hospitalised or die after being vaccinated.
The programme includes S$10,000 (RM40,000) one-time payout if an individual is hospitalised in a high dependency or intensive care unit post-vaccination.
It also includes S$225,000 one-time payout if an individual were to die or suffer permanent disabilities post-vaccination.
On Friday, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said two Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States have reassuring safety profiles with no new issues found in data collected from the first month of vaccinations.
After administration of 13.8 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to the US population, most reports indicated non-serious side effects of the type that had been expected, such as headaches and fatigue, according to Reuters. No deaths have been attributed to the vaccines, the data showed.
It was reported that the CDC collected data between Dec 14, 2020 and Jan 13 from both an existing national surveillance system for adverse events and its own safety monitoring system established for Covid-19 vaccines.
Last month, the Muslim Consumer Organisation Malaysia and partners had raised a long list of concerns over the safety of the vaccine, which were then clarified by Dr Musa Nordin, a specialist paediatrician and founder of the government-linked initiative on vaccine and immunisation education, Immunise4Life.