The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) today welcomed the government’s decision to provide vaccinations free of charge for foreigners as well as citizens, urging it to ensure that undocumented migrants who come forward to participate in the national vaccination programme are not arrested and penalised for their status.
In a statement, it said the move was recognition of the principle of access to health for all in the country, in line with the principles of non-discrimination and equal treatment as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“Access to healthcare is a fundamental human right that should be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of their status,” it said.
“The right to health contains entitlements which include the right to a system of health protection providing equal opportunity for everyone to access healthcare.”
In its decision announced on Feb 11, Putrajaya said extending free vaccination to all was part of the government’s humanitarian responsibility.
It also said this would help ensure that it reaches its target of attaining herd immunity.
While priority will be given to Malaysians once vaccinations begin at the end of the month, Putrajaya said foreign workers are also part of the local community and have contributed to the nation’s economy.
Malaysia has so far secured Covid-19 vaccine supplies from five companies at a total price of over RM2 billion, enough to inoculate more than 80% of the population and achieve herd immunity.
The Pfizer vaccines will be the first to arrive in Malaysia at the end of the month, despite the recent controversial export curbs by the European Union on vaccines produced in the bloc.
Suhakam welcomed the move as well as the government’s readiness to work with other parties including NGOs to ensure an effective immunisation programme for all.
However, it maintained that undocumented workers who come forward should not be penalised.
“While we understand the powers within the immigration laws provide for the arrest of those without valid documents, the urgency during this pandemic demands that a safe and secure environment must exist in order for all persons to come out voluntarily for vaccination.”