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No herd immunity if we can’t convince undocumented migrants to get vaccinated

Media Statement by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) COVID-19 Vaccination Committee on 11 March 2021:

The government should come up with a comprehensive policy to grant amnesty to undocumented migrants in order to encourage them to come out to get vaccinated.

The Government should also provide alternative pathways or “neutral location” for migrants to be vaccinated including at their workplace or community clinics run by NGOs which are normally frequented by the migrant populations. 

 
For illustrative purpose.
 

These are necessary steps if we want to achieve the 70% herd immunity threshold in the country.

 

1. We welcome the decision by the Government to provide foreigners, including undocumented migrants, to be vaccinated for free under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NCIP) as part of the country’s efforts to achieve herd immunity. 

2. We also acknowledge the statement by Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin saying that the government is currently drawing up a strategy for the homeless, refugees and undocumented migrants to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

3. There are some 1.2 million to four million (unofficial estimates) undocumented migrants in Malaysia. That is why in order to achieve the 70% herd immunity target quickly, we must build trust among the migrant community including those who are undocumented to come out to get the vaccine without fear of punishment or even repatriation.

4. A comprehensive and clear policy on amnesty is needed to build trust among the undocumented migrant community in view of the scores of arrest of undocumented migrants last year even after an initial promise that no action will be taken if they came forward to be tested. Such actions have caused even more distrust among this community and if not properly addressed, they will not be willing to come out to be vaccinated due to the fear of “being tricked” again.

5. Such acts cannot be repeated as these undocumented persons – especially refugees, asylum seekers and those waiting for feedback from the Immigration Department on their legalisation status, must also be vaccinated. Without vaccinating this group of people, 70% herd immunity will not be achieved and the COVID-19 virus will continue to spread in the community. That is why the policy must be clear, comprehensive and be put on black and white so that we can effectively address this issue.

 
 

6. The Government should also look at providing alternative pathways or “neutral locations” for these migrants to get vaccinated. This is important not only so that the migrants feel safer to go to these locations, rather than a government facility, but also help reduce the congestion in the government facilities that are also busy vaccinating the general population. 

7. The government should work closely with The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and civil society organisations to help to reach out to refugees and undocumented migrants for Covid-19 vaccination. This is part of the whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach where together they should look at identifying locations where the migrant community are normally located including their workplace, factories or even housing areas and set up special Vaccination Distribution Centers (VDCs) directly in those areas.

8. They can work with hospitals run by NGOs such as Mercy Malaysia, Doctors Without Borders or community clinics that are frequented by the migrant community for their primary care. Such facilities will have some form of documentation for them and also be a neutral location where they feel safer to come for vaccination.

9. Finally, we urge that information on vaccination and policy of amnesty from detention should be conveyed in ways that are culturally and language appropriate, and reach all communities throughout Malaysia especially to the migrant communities. A humanitarian move is necessary to curb the spread of the pandemic.

If not all of us are protected, none of us are properly protected.

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