Khairy Appointed Health Minister, To Manage ‘Living With Covid-19’ Strategy

Khairy is not the first non-medically trained health minister; Dzulkefly Ahmad, Liow Tiong Lai, and Chua Jui Meng, the longest-serving health minister, did not have medical degrees either; the latter handled Nipah, JE, and SARS outbreaks.

KUALA LUMPUR, August 27 — Khairy Jamaluddin has been appointed as the new Health Minister under Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s federal administration, taking over from Dr Adham Baba who was given Khairy’s previous Science, Technology and Innovation portfolio.

The appointment of Khairy as health minister, who is not medically trained, is not unprecedented, as previous Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad under the Pakatan Harapan administration did not have a medical degree either. 

Chua Jui Meng — the longest-serving health minister who served from 1995 to 2004 under Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration — handled the Nipah and Japanese encephalitis outbreaks, as well as the SARS epidemic, during his tenure. Liow Tiong Lai, who served as health minister in Najib Razak’s administration from 2014 to 2018, was also not medically trained.

“Thank you, YAB PM Ismail Sabri, for the trust. God willing, I will bear this rather heavy burden for the sake of our ‘Malaysian Family,” Khairy tweeted, using Ismail Sabri’s new slogan.

As new health minister, Khairy’s task is to steer the nation towards “living with the Covid-19 virus” under the Malaysian National Health Agenda (ANMS), a clear indication of the new government’s endemic Covid-19 strategy, said the prime minister.

In announcing his new Cabinet line-up today, Ismail Sabri said the ANMS policy is in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) projection that Covid-19 will remain an endemic disease — or constantly present in society — with the emergence of more aggressive variants of concern that has resulted in breakthrough infections among those who have been vaccinated.

“I hope the appointment of this Cabinet will give new confidence for the country to rise up and unite in the fight against Covid-19 as well as free the nation from the misery of this pandemic.

“I will make sure this Cabinet emphasises a high-performance work culture. Therefore, each ministry needs to make short-term and long-term plans and achieve the targets set. For that, each ministry needs to prove its initial achievement within the first 100 days,” Ismail Sabri said in a televised address to the nation today.

Khairy, who was coordinating minister of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK), may look to consolidate the MOH’s overarching role in dealing with the epidemic by placing the vaccination programme under the ministry.

The national inoculation rollout was administered primarily by medical workers under MOH and private medical practitioners managed by ProtectHealth Corporation, an MOH-owned company.

Although Khairy led vaccine procurement efforts, black-and-white agreements were actually signed between vaccine suppliers and MOH, not the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) that he headed.

PICK was predominantly led by MOSTI due to Khairy’s previous appointment as Vaccine Minister, although MOH is co-chair of the Special Committee for Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV).

Ismail Sabri promised cross-party partnerships in delivering the national agenda, stressing that the new Cabinet will need to adopt a more and efficient approach in delivering both services and information to the general public.

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