Suhakam urges Putrajaya to include migrant workers, refugees, stateless in Covid-19 vaccine plans

A resident receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the EHPAD (care home and day centre for elderly people) of the Le Jeune hospital in Saint-Renan January 4, 2021. ― Reuters pic
A resident receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the EHPAD (care home and day centre for elderly people) of the Le Jeune hospital in Saint-Renan January 4, 2021. ― Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) today called on the government to also extend Covid-19 vaccines to vulnerable local communities including migrants, refugees, and stateless persons, pointing out that the disease affects everyone.

The commission said that the vaccination programme must also include all those in immigration detention centres and prisons regardless of nationality.

“Suhakam notes that the government has established the Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) in 2020 to look into the matters relating to the procurement and distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“According to the updates provided by the government in December 2020, the current supply of the Covid-19 vaccine will allow 82.8 per cent of Malaysians to receive the vaccine.

“The right to health is a basic human right enjoyed by everyone. The access to healthcare, including vaccines, is an essential aspect of the right to health. The vulnerable communities, the refugees, migrant and undocumented workers and stateless persons 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,” Suhakam said.

The commission cited a report that said there were approximately 2.5 million documented migrant workers in the country.

Suhakam also pointed out cases of Covid-19 in immigration detention centres and prisons, adding that it is imperative for the government to take this into consideration when distributing Covid-19 vaccines.

“Suhakam takes note of the news reports in the first week of January 2021 that JKJAV planned to suggest free vaccination for migrant workers in the country. In this regard, Suhakam hopes that JKJAV will look into this matter and ensure free Covid-19 vaccination for all including migrant and undocumented workers, refugees, stateless persons and the detainees in the detention centres and prison inmates,” it added.

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