Worst-hit by Covid-19, Malaysia's Selangor state starts own vaccination programme

A man receiving the Covid-19 vaccine in Shah Alam, Selangor, on June 28, 2021.
A man receiving the Covid-19 vaccine in Shah Alam, Selangor, on June 28, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's richest and most populous state of Selangor, which is worst hit by Covid-19, has launched its own vaccination programme after a week of tension with the federal government over vaccine supply.

The Selangor Vaccine Programme (Selvax) is the first and only independent initiative by a Malaysian state so far. It comes as Selangor, led by the federal opposition Pakatan Harapan, has been the worst hit in the pandemic for several months now.

Selvax is mainly for those working in the industrial sector, which has been the largest contributor of Covid-19 cases in the state, said Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari on Wednesday (June 30) when he launched Selvax.

He said: "91 per cent of our cases are due to workplace transmissions - 80 per cent are from factories and 11 per cent are from construction sites."

The state government, through its own healthcare firm Selgate, had purchased 2.5 million doses of Sinovac vaccine, locally finished by Malaysian pharmaceutical group Pharmaniaga.

Up to two million doses will be used to inoculate up to one million workers in the state's key industries, such as the manufacturing and construction sectors. Companies who enrol in the vaccination programme pay an undisclosed amount to Selgate, although no charges will be levied on those who are vaccinated, including foreign workers.

Another 500,000 doses will be used for a Selvax Community programme, which will administer free doses to 250,000 residents from the most vulnerable groups.

Selvax, which will be rolled out in thousands of clinics across the state and five mega vaccination centres, will help Selangor inoculate 80 per cent of its population by the end of October, said Datuk Seri Amirudin.

The programme will complement and run concurrently with the National Immunisation Programme by the federal government, he added.

Earlier in the week, the state and federal officials briefly locked horns over the supply of vaccines to Selangor.

Selangor state executive councillor for health, women and family empowerment, Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud, on Sunday criticised coordinating minister for immunisation Khairy Jamaluddin's statement that low vaccination rates in Selangor was due to a lack of capacity and not due to a lack of vaccine supply. She claimed that Selangor's vaccination centres were at the risk of running out of vaccines within days due to inadequate supply.

The controversy was settled amicably by Tuesday, after Dr Mariah attended a federal immunisation task force meeting and was told that the state will receive more than four million doses of vaccine in July.

Selangor King, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, previously expressed his concern over the low supply of vaccines to Selangor despite the size of its population. The biggest contributor to Malaysia's economy, Selangor is home to 6.5 million people, about 20 per cent of the country's population.

As of Wednesday, only 4.4 per cent of the state's targeted adult population has been fully inoculated. This was the lowest two-dose vaccination rate in Malaysia, with neighbouring Kuala Lumpur fully vaccinating 10.7 per cent of its target population.

Mr Khairy had said that vaccination in Selangor will be ramped up significantly in the coming months in an attempt to allow the state to reopen economically by October.

On Wednesday, Selangor recorded 2,836 new coronavirus cases, just below half of the nationwide tally of 6,276 new cases. This is the second time this year that Selangor has recorded this number of new daily cases, the highest so far for the state.

It has a total of 245,915 Covid-19 cases so far and 1,549 deaths.

Malaysia is currently under a nationwide lockdown. It will move to a second phase of a Covid-19 exit and recovery plan only if the number of daily cases fall below 4,000 and the full vaccination rate reaches 10 per cent of the population.

As of Wednesday, 6.8 per cent of Malaysians have been fully vaccinated.