We’ve all seen our social media timelines flooded with pictures of our family and friends right after they’ve been vaccinated. Proudly smiling, flexing their freshly-jabbed arms and holding up “I’ve just been vaccinated!” placards.
Since the vaccination drive has been ramped up in the past few months, we’re heading closer to achieving herd immunity. At the time of writing, over 21 million people have signed up for the vaccine—that’s out of 32 plus million residents in Malaysia.
While that’s a great number, it still falls a little short of the target to achieve herd immunity. So the question is, to hit those numbers, can the government actually make the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory?
The government was considering making it mandatory
Earlier this year, the then MOSTI Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who is the current Health Minister, suggested that the Covid-19 vaccine might be mandatory for all in Malaysia. This was due to the fact that the number of signups for the vaccine was incredibly low at that point. But like we said, this has changed drastically and millions have been fully inoculated since then.
At present, there have been no concrete plans yet to make the vaccine mandatory. Instead, the government has decided to limit places and activities unvaccinated people can access. Those who choose to remain unvaccinated may also be subject to regular testing. For now, these are some of the things unvaccinated people aren’t allowed to do:
- Travel to local destinations within the local travel bubble
- Dine-in at restaurants
- Enter cinemas and other business premises
This list is bound to be updated, with more and more places opening up. You get the drill. While Malaysia may not make vaccines mandatory, in order to keep infections and hospitalisations at bay, they can still take other measures such as these.
It CAN be made compulsory for certain groups of people
But wait a minute. What about those working in high-risk environments or around vulnerable groups of people?
You might remember coming across a recent update on teachers who refuse to be vaccinated. Essentially, only teachers who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to teach face-to-face-classes. And while the Education Ministry is still deciding what action to take on unvaccinated teachers, the current standing is that these teachers will not be sacked altogether, but they will be reassigned to other positions—ones that don’t allow them to directly deal with children.
As for whether employers can make vaccines compulsory for their employees, there isn’t really one answer to this. Since there’s no law on a national level that can be mandated, companies can’t exactly force their employees.
However, employers may be able to require employees to be vaccinated if it’s in line with the employment contract. If the contract states that the employee should do what is necessary to ensure a safe work environment, the employee would be expected to honour that agreement.
Laws for this may be passed in the future
So, to answer the big question: Malaysia might be able to make vaccines mandatory if they pass a law specifically for this in the future. The thing is, passing a law takes time and it goes through a long process (this calls for a separate article). There’s also the consideration of human rights which gives a person autonomy over their own bodies, allowing them to decide for themselves what they can and cannot take.
But at the same time, the government will need to look at the safety of everyone on the whole when they make their decision. Currently, there is the Prevention and Control of Infection Diseases Act 1988 which is referred to when passing any laws and rules regarding Covid-19. It’s not entirely impossible for Malaysia to make the vaccine compulsory if needed, especially when neighbouring countries such as Indonesia have already done so. Only time will tell.