Suhakam wants free Covid-19 vaccines for vulnerable non-citizens, detainees

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Suhakam wants free Covid-19 vaccines for vulnerable non-citizens, detainees
Suhakam wants free Covid-19 vaccines for vulnerable non-citizens, detainees

The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has urged the government to provide free Covid-19 vaccinations for vulnerable non-citizens and detained persons.

Otherwise, these communities risked being unable to afford the vaccine against a virus that does not discriminate based on citizenship status, it said.

“Suhakam urges the government to provide free Covid-19 vaccines for all including vulnerable communities, refugees, migrants, stateless persons, detainees in detention centres and prison inmates without discrimination based on their nationality status.

“The right to health is a basic human right enjoyed by everyone. Access to healthcare, including vaccines, is an essential aspect of the right to health.

“Vulnerable communities... face the risk of falling through the cracks in the current health system for many reasons including their status and nationality, and inability to afford the healthcare costs,” the government agency said in a statement yesterday.

The World Bank previously estimated there were between 2.96 million and 3.26 million documented and undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia as of 2017.

According to the UNHCR, there were 178,450 refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia as of October 2020.

Under the present vaccination plan, Malaysians will not need to pay should they want to be vaccinated.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin previously said the government was considering whether to vaccinate migrant workers against Covid-19 for free in a bid to achieve herd immunity.

However, Human Resources Minister M Saravanan insisted that employers ought to bear all staff immunisation costs.

The government’s goal is to immunise at least 70 percent of the population - a threshold that studies say is sufficient to achieve herd immunity. Such immunity is supposed to slow the spread of Covid-19 and protect those who have not been vaccinated.

READ MORE: A guide to when Malaysians can get vaccinated for Covid-19

Suhakam further urged Putrajaya to innoculate prison and detention centre inmates for free.

“There have been cases of Covid-19 infections in detention centres and prisons.

“It is therefore important to take this into consideration when the government distributes the Covid-19 vaccine,” it added.

Detention centres like prisons, police lockups and immigration detention centres have become Covid-19 hotspots due to their cramped and confined conditions.

As of Jan 18, these facilities accounted for 28 Covid-19 clusters. The clusters were traced back to either inmates or staff at these facilities.

“Suhakam stresses that Covid-19 does not discriminate, it affects everyone including these vulnerable communities,” it said.

Khairy, who co-chairs the Covid-19 Guaranteed Vaccine Supply Committee said yesterday that the government plans to administer vaccinations in areas where Covid-19 outbreaks are detected.

Calling it a “ring vaccination” strategy, such areas can include detention centres or workplaces that experience a spike in infections.

He did not state if detained persons would be vaccinated for free or otherwise.