To win the fight against COVID-19, one of the most powerful tools is mass vaccination, in addition to the continued use of public health measures such as physical distancing, wearing of masks and handwashing. If a sizeable majority of the population is vaccinated, it will help reduce transmission of the disease and greatly limit severe COVID-19 cases and deaths. This is especially true for vulnerable groups such as undocumented persons who are often living and working in conditions that do not allow for proper physical distancing.
Throughout the pandemic, the UN in Malaysia has been strongly advocating for the inclusion of migrants, refugees and undocumented persons in the COVID-19 response and the National COVID-19 Immunization Programme. These vulnerable groups should also have meaningful access to information so that they are aware of the vaccination plans and where to access the services. The public health logic in a pandemic is that nobody is safe unless everybody is safe.
Furthermore, in press conferences in February and April 2021, the Government has repeated that those without documents will not be detained during vaccination. The UN commends this inclusive approach to keep the entire population safe.
The UN in Malaysia has also discussed with the Government that in order to encourage undocumented people to come forward for vaccination, guarantees from repercussions such as temporary exemption or moratorium from detention and deportation are important. A crackdown on migrants during this critical public health crisis could seriously undermine the public health objective and lead to adverse results.
The UN continues to offer to collaborate with the Government and other stakeholders to help ensure all individuals, regardless of legal status, are included in vaccination plans without repercussions.