Covid-19 vaccine: Include foreign workers in high-risk group if warranted, says WHO

Health workers conduct a Covid-19 screening test on local and foreign workers at Central Spectrum, Pulau Indah, December 10, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Health workers conduct a Covid-19 screening test on local and foreign workers at Central Spectrum, Pulau Indah, December 10, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 ― Host countries of migrant workers should consider ways to vaccinate foreign workers against Covid-19, said the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Coordinator for Essential Medicines and Health Technologies at the WHO Western Pacific Region Dr Socorro Escalante said while WHO has listed groups to be given priority for vaccination, namely healthcare workers, the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, migrant workers should also be included into the high-risk category if there is a need.

“Our aim is to prevent morbidity and mortality, protect the health system, and prevent social and economic disruption,” she said during a virtual press conference today.

Malaysia in recent weeks recorded thousands of infections among foreign labourers, and according to WHO regional figures, Malaysia reported the second-highest number of Covid-19 infections in the past 24 hours within the region at 1,371 cases behind Japan.

In the past month, a majority of daily totals have been due to outbreaks among foreign workers in the Klang Valley, Negri Sembilan and Penang and also in prisons.

The issue comes up as glove manufacturer Top Glove reported more than 5,600 cases among its factory workers in Petaling Jaya, near here in recent weeks. Other glove manufacturers have also reported outbreaks.

Similar outbreaks among foreign workers have also plagued other countries, such as Singapore earlier this year.

The outbreaks have been blamed on cramped housing and lack of compliance of preventive measures.

Officials at the virtual press conference said countries in the region will likely receive their vaccines under the Covax facility within the second quarter of 2021.

Under the facility, at least  20 per cent of a member country’s population is guaranteed to receive a Covid-19 vaccine once it becomes available. ― Bernama

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