Why Is Government Charging For Covid-19 Jabs Despite Large Budget?

PIKAS is charging employers RM45 per vaccine dose despite the government allocating RM210 million for Covid-19 vaccination by private medical practitioners.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — The government is charging for Covid-19 vaccination of workers, despite most of the RM210 million federal budget for injections by private medical practitioners remaining untouched.

According to Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin last June 14, private medical practitioners have administered only about 11 per cent of Covid-19 shots in Malaysia as of June 11, or 450,219 of 4,227,554 total doses. 

Back-of-the-envelope calculations based on his projections suggest that ProtectHealth Corporation — a Ministry of Health (​MOH) owned company that is managing private medical practitioners registered as vaccinators under National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) — spent RM6,753,285, or just about 3 per cent of the RM210 million budgeted, by June 11.

Khairy confirmed during last Monday’s media briefing that the government’s RM210 million allocation for ProtectHealth involved an RM15 payout per dose — RM14 is for private medical practitioners carrying out vaccinations and RM1 is to provide training, develop a proprietary system to monitor vaccination activities, and support the development and operation of vaccination sites (PPV).

In principle, the RM210 million allocation should cover 14 million injections at RM15 per dose. As the government is targeting to give 52 million doses to 26 million people on double-dose vaccine regimens for 80 per cent of the total population, this means the 14 million doses administered by private practitioners comprise only 27 per cent of overall injections; the rest should be covered by vaccinators in the public sector that is not budgeted. 

Khairy estimated private medical practitioners to contribute about 66,000 doses per day this week, with the figure increasing to 78,000 doses per day on June 23. 

“Our projection is that private medical practitioners will be contributing 145,000 doses a day by July,” he said.

Rough calculations show that the estimated cost of Covid-19 vaccination by private medical practitioners should hit a total of RM92,448,285, or just 44 per cent of the overall RM210 million allocation by the end of July. 

CodeBlue’s calculations based on Khairy’s projections include vaccinations on weekends and public holidays, according to the PICK coordinating minister’s claim that mega PPVs operate seven days a week. Vaccinations on June 12 and 13 were excluded because data was not available for both days.

This means there is still a whopping RM117,551,715, or nearly 56 per cent of the budget left to pay for vaccinations administered by private medical practitioners after July 31. The remaining fund should be enough to cover 7,836,781 more doses.

Khairy’s predecessor Yeo Bee Yin, who is also Bakri MP, recently questioned the government’s motive of charging employers RM45 per dose under the Public-Private Covid-19 Industrial Immunisation Programme (PIKAS) that started June 16. This is equivalent to RM90 per worker for complete vaccination.

The RM45 charge per dose covers RM15 vaccine administration payment to ProtectHealth and RM30 PPV venue payment to PPV operators for common-use PPVs, according to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), which has been tasked to coordinate the immunisation programme for the economic sector.

Yeo said the vaccine administration fees should have been budgeted under the government’s RM5 billion allocation for PICK, which includes RM 3.5 billion on vaccine procurement and RM1.5 billion for supporting administrative expenses, including RM210 million for private medical practitioners.

“To ensure full transparency, the government should publish the spending report since the beginning of PICK,” she said in a statement on June 13.

PIKAS uses Covid-19 vaccines from the national supply, as well as the same vaccinators among private medical practitioners registered with ProtectHealth and the same PPVs, excluding on-site PPVs at factories or other industry facilities, for PICK.  

In other words, the government is charging a select group of vaccine recipients — employees — for vaccine administration and PPV set-up costs at facilities that are already operating under PICK for the general public that receives Covid-19 shots for free.

The Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) did not respond to CodeBlue’s queries at the time of writing.

Interestingly, the vaccination programme under the Malaysian Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) announced on June 17 charges RM140 per person in vaccination fees for two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, or RM70 per dose. 

The cost breakdown was not clearly detailed out, though CIDB did state that the programme requires the private sector to prepare and fund their own qualified medical team and vaccination centre. The vaccines will be supplied and delivered to them for free by the government.

CIDB also said it will provide a subsidy of RM50 for each worker and allow its premises to be used as a vaccination centre. 

That means employers in the construction industry will only have to pay RM90 for each worker to be fully vaccinated, or RM45 per dose. CIDB said its inoculation programme — which will be held in Kuala Lumpur on June 30 and Selangor on July 14 — is looking to vaccinate up to 40,000 workers in the construction industry. 

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