Thursday, January 20, 2022

Poser over Selangor’s move to charge 8 times more than Putrajaya for vaccinating workers

While some companies might be prepared to pay the higher costs, others prefer to wait for the cheaper alternatives offered under PICK or Pikas.

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There are concerns that a Selangor government initiative to undertake the vaccination of industrial workers in the state might be hampered by high charges to the public, as the state continues to report the highest number of Covid-19 infections which have been blamed for the unpopular decision to re-impose the lockdown.

Selvax, Selangor’s vaccination programme which aims to inoculate some one million workers, will charge employers almost eight times more than what a similar programme by Putrajaya to vaccinate the industrial sector is charging per head.

Under the programme, which will be carried out by a state-linked company, employers will be charged RM350 to complete two doses of vaccine.

Meanwhile, Pikas, the massive industrial vaccination drive launched last month by the international trade and industry ministry (Miti), charges only RM45 per worker, the cost of which will be borne by employers.

A minimum of 1,000 workers is needed in order to qualify for Pikas, under which companies will have to identify their vaccination venue conforming to rules set by the health ministry.

A company may also combine with other companies within the same locality to account for the 1,000 employees.

The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) recommended combining in order to qualify for Pikas, but said companies might also be prepared to fork out higher costs under Selvax as the benefits outweigh the possible losses they might incur under the continued lockdown.

“To avoid such losses that may be higher, many employers choose to pay full costs under Selvax,” MEF president Syed Hussain Syed Husman told MalaysiaNow.

But he said it was up to the employers to choose between Selvax or Pikas, or to let workers opt for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme through the MySejahtera app.

Syed Hussain believes that small companies might be prepared to pay RM350 per worker under Selvax.

But several medium-scale companies with 100-200 employees told MalaysiaNow they would not opt for Selvax due to the high costs.

“We prefer to either wait for the cheaper alternatives offered by the (federal) government, or to combine with other companies to qualify for Pikas,” said a company executive in Sungai Buloh.

The sentiment was shared by a company boss who only wanted to be known as Chin, who employs about 120 people at his factory outside Shah Alam.

Saying the company had been losing tens of thousands of ringgit each day due to the stricter lockdown in Selangor, Chin said he would save close to RM40,000 if he opted to combine with other factories in his area for Pikas.

“And in these times when we have been told to lock down for the past two weeks, that is a lot of money which would be better spent on paying our workers,” said Chin.

When contacted, Rodziah Ismail, one of two excos tasked with Selvax’s industrial vaccination, referred MalaysiaNow to a report on the state’s news portal Selangorkini.

The report quoted Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari as denying that the state was profiteering from Selvax, saying its cost is not only for the vaccines.

“It’s not only vaccines and vaccine boxes, we also mobilise more than 5,000 staff and incur certain costs for vaccination centres (PPVs) and so on,” he said.

The report did not specify the costs involved.

A breakdown given by MITI on the Pikas programme shows that the charge of RM45 per worker covers RM30 for costs related to preparations for the vaccination centre, and RM15 for vaccine administration costs to ProtectHealth, the health ministry’s company tasked with public health services.

While Putrajaya has been unable to disclose the costs of the various vaccines it has procured so far due to agreements it signed with suppliers, MalaysiaNow has reliably learnt that it would not cost more than RM80 for each dose of vaccines.

“This price is an estimate for the higher priced vaccines,” a source told MalaysiaNow.

The source further said the price could be brought down through bulk purchases.

Efforts by MalaysiaNow to obtain an explanation from the various parties responsible for Selangor’s battle against Covid-19 have been futile.

Malaysia’s vaccination drive has gained momentum since it was launched in March, and yesterday recorded the highest number of doses delivered at 376,909, with more than 10 million people having already received at least a first dose of vaccine.

Aliff Fikri contributed to this report.

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