Malaysia Considers Incentives Instead Of Mandatory Covid-19 Jabs

Khairy Jamaluddin cites potential benefits like travel and attending concerts, indoor gatherings, and conventions.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — The government is looking to deploy incentives that may persuade people who are hesitant to take Covid-19 vaccines, rather than coerce people into vaccination that Khairy Jamaluddin deems unethical. 

The vaccine minister said while mandatory vaccination can be deployed to boost the country’s inoculation count once it plateaus, the government is leaning towards a softer approach that rewards those who get their Covid-19 shot.

“We have been thinking about a lot of ‘carrot policies’ and some countries have implemented this. What are the carrot options we have? It is to give certain freedom to people who have been fully vaccinated — you can travel freely, attend concerts, have indoor gatherings and attend conventions.

“Before we resort to having a mandatory vaccination policy — which we currently do not have at all in Malaysia, even for a regular vaccine due to ethical considerations — I think we need to explore the carrot option, namely what are the benefits that you can get, or the freedoms that you get to enjoy once you’ve been fully vaccinated,” Khairy said Wednesday during The Oxford and Cambridge Society Malaysia’s “The Path to Herd Immunity” public dialogue conducted online.

Interstate travel, however, will only be allowed when at least 60 per cent of the total population has been fully vaccinated, said the minister. As of June 17, only 4.7 per cent of the population has been fully inoculated.

In the US, where daily coronavirus vaccination rates appear to be slowing down, state administrations have launched various incentive programmes, which include multi-million dollar cash giveaways, vacation packages, free theme park tickets, and even guns, to convince millions of Americans who are still unvaccinated against Covid-19 to get their jabs.

In Malaysia, Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin has offered RM1,000 lucky draws for his constituents who register for Covid-19 jabs.

Commenting on the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency’s (​NPRA) purportedly slow approvals for Covid-19 vaccines, Khairy said while he appreciated the call for a more expeditious process, he warned against interfering in pharmaceutical regulatory works.

“The moment you bypass the NPRA, a lot of legal questions arise. Who will be liable in the case of adverse events following immunisation? Who will be liable if the vaccines that have been delivered are found not to be effective upon testing? There are serious legal questions if you want to do away with the present process.

“What we can do is ask the NPRA to expedite things. I think that message has been heard, loud and clear. In the case of Johnson & Johnson and CanSino, they took weeks, not months, to evaluate them once the dossier had come in,” Khairy said.

He also highlighted that the registration of pharmaceutical products in Malaysia requires a local product registration holder. 

“There has to be a company here that is responsible for the product. In the case of Pfizer and AstraZeneca, they have subsidiaries here. In the case of Sinovac, they don’t have a subsidiary here so they appointed a Pharmaniaga Bhd to become the product registration holder.

“For Moderna, there is no product registration holder because nobody has come forward to say that they want to register Moderna. We’ve been talking to people and local pharmaceutical companies, but no private pharmaceutical company wants to register,” he said.

Health care services provider Zuellig Pharma announced in May that its division, ZP Therapeutics, would be distributing Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. However, a distributor may not necessarily be the product registration

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