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MARCH 2 ― It is heartening to read that Khairy Jamaluddin, the minister in charge of the national vaccination programme, has vowed to crackdown on Covid-19 vaccine queue-jumpers following complaints.
But how will he and the government do it?
It is submitted that, with the state of emergency in force, the government needs to enact an Emergency Ordinance to provide for the offence and penalties for vaccine queue-jumping. Currently under section 11(3) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342), it shall be lawful for any authorised officer to direct any person living in an infected local area to be vaccinated. Under section 11(4), it shall be lawful for the authorized officer to use such force may be necessary and employ such method as may be sufficient to ensure compliance with the direction issued.
But, thus far, regulations made by the health minister under section 11(2) of Act 342 that prescribe the movement-control order (MCO) measures to control or prevent the spread of the Covid-19 have not made provisions on vaccination and its regulation.
The minister’s powers to make regulations under section 31 of Act 342 too do not make specific reference to making regulations on vaccination. This is unlike section 73 of Singapore’s Infectious Diseases Act ― a legislation relating to the prevention of infectious diseases like Act 342 ― which specifically provides for the power to make regulations with respect to the “regulation of vaccinations and other prophylaxis and the issuance of certificates relating thereto.”
Section 31 has already been amended vide the recent Emergency [Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Amendment)] Ordinance 2021 [PU (A) 76/2021]. It will have to be amended again to allow for the minister to make regulations on vaccination. This will in turn allow the “Guidelines to Determine List of Front-liners” to avoid queue jumping under the National Covid-19 Immunization Programme to have the force of law and not mere guidelines.
This should avoid a repeat of no-further-action (NFA) against Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali for violating a quarantine order in July on a technicality as Khairuddin was not issued with the quarantine order form 14B under section 15(1) of Act 342.
The issue of vaccine queue-jumping is important as a matter of principle. As rightly said by Khairy, if “vaccine equity is not being practised by advanced countries that have monopolised it, until poorer countries have no access to the Covid-19 vaccine”, let not the privileged few in our society “cut the line to receive the vaccine before frontliners.”
This principle must translate into law so that vaccine queue-jumping is an offence punishable under the law.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.