On the 18th of March 2021, the Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced an increase in the budget for National Immunization Program from RM 3 billion to RM 5 billion and Minister of Finance Tengku Zafrul subsequently announced that the fund will come from Kumpulan Wang Amanah Negara (KWAN).
The Immunisation Minister on 27 April 2021 gave a breakdown of how the RM 5 billion will be spent with the breakdown of which RM 3.5 billion on procurement of portfolio of vaccines and RM 1.5 billion for the supporting administrative expenses (image 1).
Yesterday Minister of International Trade and Industry Azmin Ali announced Program Imunisasi Industri Covid-19 Kerjasama Awam-Swasta (PIKAS) for Phase 4, of which the administrative cost per vaccine dose for each worker is RM45 if it is done at the PPVs, while on-site vaccination cost is estimated at more than RM15 plus venue cost, all to be paid by employers. See images below for reference.
RM 5 billion budget was announced by the Prime Minister to support all expenses to reach herd immunity by year end.
However, as Phase 4 starts, employers are asked to pay for the vaccination administration fees. While many employers may not mind to foot the bill, as long as it ensures faster opening of operation for them. What about those who can’t afford as their businesses are badly hit by Covid-19?
Most importantly, does that mean that the NIP is now spending above the budgeted RM 5 billion? Otherwise vaccine and vaccination administration fees should have been budgeted in the RM 3.5 billion and RM 1.5 billion respectively, and come free for everyone. To ensure full transparency, the government should publish the spending report since the beginning of NIP.
In addition, as the government is now moving towards vaccinating economic front-liners, there must be a fair evaluation of who are considered economic front-liners and who get prioritized. I call upon the government not to neglect the hawkers, small traders, small service providers such as hair dressers as economic front liners.
In my dialogues with hawkers and market traders in Bakri constituency, most of them were concerned about the high infection but still have to go to open stalls whenever they can, because to them no work means no income.
Government must make sure that the economic front-liner vaccination program does not further exacerbate the gap between the haves and the have-nots during the pandemic.
Yeo Bee Yin
MP for Bakri