Prison Inmates, Foreign Workers Should Be Vaccine Priority Groups: Khairy

The first million doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine scheduled for February 2021 delivery will be prioritised for frontliners.

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 23 — Prison inmates and migrant workers should be given high priority in getting Covid-19 vaccines due to repeated outbreaks among these vulnerable populations, Khairy Jamaluddin said today.

The science, technology and innovation minister said that the issue on whether prison inmates and foreign workers should be given priority in getting the vaccine was discussed in the Cabinet and recommendations will be made to the the Cabinet by the Covid-19 Vaccine Supplies Access Guarantee Special Committee (JKJAV) by January.

“If you ask me, of course prison inmates should be high on the priority list,” Khairy told a press conference here today on the government’s Covid-19 vaccination strategy.

“One, they’ve been susceptible to outbreaks, clusters, and secondly, there’s nowhere to go; they’re in a restricted confined space. Same with the foreign workers. So we are working out a policy and we will announce them soon.”

According to the Minister of Home Affairs in his written Dewan Rakyat reply on December 15, a total of 1,160 prisoners and 125 prison staff and family members have tested positive with Covid-19 as of November 3.

Besides that, the current Covid-19 outbreak in Selangor was majorly reported among migrant workers, including the largest cluster reported in Malaysia, the Teratai cluster, which originated from Top Glove Corp’s migrant workers dormitories in Meru, Klang. As of today, the Teratai cluster has recorded 5,982 positive Covid-19 cases out of 8,871 people screened, a 67.4 per cent positivity rate.

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said that persons in settings with high risk of virus transmission, like in prisons, immigration detention facilities, and factory dormitories, should be given high priority in getting the Covid-19 vaccine.

Frontliners Will Be First To Get Pfizer’s One Million Doses

As one million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be shipped to Malaysia in February 2021, Khairy said that frontliners will be prioritised to get the shots.

“The first one million doses of Pfizer will be sent to certain vaccination centres; we will announce later after the Ministry of Health (MOH) has decided and they will be prioritised for frontliners,” Khairy said.

“So, we will map out. Tan Sri Hisham has shared with me that he is working on it,” he added, referring to Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Risk Assessments For All In Determining Vaccination Priority

According to Khairy, whether or not a politician should be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine will only depend on their risk assessment.

“I don’t look at you and say you are a politician and you should get it first or last. I look at you, at your responsibilities, and we analyse your risk assessment,” the minister said.

“When we decide on a priority list, one, we decide are you likely to develop Covid-19 if you’re infected with SARS-CoV-2 or are you likely to suffer from it, i.e die from it?

“That’s why countries have prioritised old people because data shows that they are vulnerable from the worse effects fo Covid-19, as well as people with comorbidities like heart disease, diabetes, cancer patients, respiratory disease. On that, you will be priorities,” Khairy stressed.

“On that basis, how likely is that a public official will be infected, and infect others. So we will go based on close contacts, how often you see people, how often you meet the public, how often you go to public places.

“It’s not so much your job title, but it’s whether or not you can get sick, die or whether you can be infected.”

Yesterday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that he will be among the first individuals to get the Covid-19 vaccine to convince the public that the vaccine is safe and effective.

Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Radin also told the Dewan Rakyat recently that he volunteered to be the first Malaysian to take the Covid-19 vaccine as he said he is not afraid of the vaccine and wants to be healthy.

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