KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 — Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin today said that Covid-19 frontline workers will be given the priority once a viable vaccine is available.
In an interview with BFM 89.9 this morning, the Rembau MP said priority will be given to healthcare, social workers, teachers and policemen among others.
“It is important that we want to be at the front end of the queue for vaccination, but it has to be safe and effective. We must look at the data first, which is expected to come out next month or in December,” Khairy said.
Speaking to BFM’s Wong Shou Ning, Khairy said vulnerable groups such as those who are deemed high-risk, like individuals with comorbidity (more than one illness or ailments) who experience lung or heart-related diseases, or are diabetic will also be prioritised.
“So the first round of vaccines will cover an estimated three per cent of the population. Another concern we have is that of mass immunity, as it is a matter of managing the public’s expectations.
“We need to be very clear in communicating with two segments, the first being those who want the vaccine now and who must understand the risks involved. The second is anti-vaccination supporters, whom we must work to win over,” Khairy said.
The minister said that he has also recommended to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister that the costs for the first round of vaccination should be borne by the government as ‘it is for a public good’.
Khairy added that he also feels the vaccine should be extended to long-term residents of Malaysia who have lived in the country for many years.
“I also proposed to the Finance Minister that RM3 billion be set aside for this in the next budget, so that there will be necessary resources to purchase the vaccine,” he said.
Budget 2021 is expected to be tabled next month.
In an interview with The Star last Friday, Khairy estimated that the downpayment for the Covid-19 vaccination alone will be RM90 million, since Malaysia is not expected to get any subsidisation or financial assistance from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global Covid-19 vaccine access plan as Malaysia is classified as a middle- to high-income country.
The vaccination is under the Covax programme, co-led by WHO, the Global Alliance and Vaccine Immunization, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which will involve higher-income countries financing the Covid-19 vaccines from their own national budgets, while low and middle income countries will receive financial support to access the vaccines. Its aim is to have two billion vaccine doses available by the end of next year.