Malaysia tackles queue-jumping in Covid-19 inoculation drive

There have been complaints on social media of politicians and their aides cutting the queue for the vaccine. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian minister has removed the names of queue-jumpers who tried to quickly get the Covid-19 vaccine from a list of names of those to be inoculated soon under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NCIP).

Mr Khairy Jamaluddin, the coordinating minister for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, said on Monday (March 1) that some officials had managed to get onto the list, adding that the government has drawn up a clear guideline to identify front-liners in the first phase of the government's inoculation drive.

There have been complaints on social media of politicians and their aides cutting the queue for the vaccine following its roll-out last week.

In one such complaint, a consultant physician said officials from the Kelantan state secretariat were trying to jump the queue ahead of medical front-liners, Malaysiakini news site reported.

Mr Khairy said: "The task force has decided to issue a guideline that would provide a definitive list of who are the front-line workers eligible for the first phase of the NICP... We will make it available online.

"The issue of queue jumping will no longer arise when there is this clear guideline."

Malaysia isn't the only country that has to tackle queue-jumpers hoping to get the Covid-19 jabs earlier. Anger over these "line-cutters" has been expressed in Indonesia and South America countries.

Two ministers in Peru, one in Ecuador and one in Argentina have resigned for receiving or giving preferential access to scarce vaccines. In Brazil and these countries, prosecutors are looking into accusations of irregularities in inoculation drives, most of them involving local politicians and their families cutting the line.

Said Mr Khairy, who is also Malaysia's Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, of the queue-jumpers: "It was not due to a flaw in the registration process, but rather there was a lack of clarity, so people tried their luck and managed to get on (the list). But the numbers are very small."

The names of these line-cutters have been removed, he was quoted as saying by Free Malaysia Today news site.

Apart from healthcare workers and teachers, elected lawmakers are included in the first phase of Malaysia's inoculation drive.

They include the menteris besar and chief ministers of the 13 Malaysian states and members of their state Cabinet. This has triggered public complaints.

Said Perak Menteri Besar Saarani Mohamad: "Some say it is better to give the people first, then only the leaders. We have suggested it before that but some commented and felt that they were being made test subjects for the leaders.

"Now we say we give to leaders first to instil confidence and an example to the people, but there are still grouses."

Malaysia last month approved the Pfizer-BioNTech for use in the country, with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin the first to be inoculated on Wednesday last week (Feb 24).

The government has also received applications for the use of the Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Sputnik vaccines in Malaysia.

Malaysia on Monday reported 1,828 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 302,580. The death toll rose to 1,135 after five more people were killed by the virus.

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