Malaysia's richest and most populous state of Selangor - the 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 state for several months now.
Selvax is mainly for those in the industrial sector, which has been the largest contributor of cases in the state, said Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari yesterday at its launch.
He said: "Ninety-one 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 healthcare firm Selgate, has bought 2.5 million doses of Sinovac vaccine, locally finished by Malaysia's Pharmaniaga.
Two million doses will be for up to one million workers in 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 administered for free to 250,000 residents from the most vulnerable groups.
Selvax, which will be rolled out in thousands of clinics 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 federal government's National Immunisation Programme, he added.
Earlier in the week, state and federal officials briefly locked horns over the supply of vaccines to Selangor.
On Sunday, Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud, Selangor's executive councillor for health, women and family empowerment, criticised coordinating minister for immunisation Khairy Jamaluddin's statement that the low vaccination rates in Selangor were due to a lack of capacity and not a lack of vaccine supply.
She claimed that the state's vaccination centres were at risk of running out of vaccines within days because of inadequate supply.
The controversy was settled amicably by Tuesday, after Dr Siti Mariah was told that the state will receive more than four million vaccine doses this month.
Selangor's Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah previously expressed concern over the low supply of vaccines to the state. Selangor, the biggest contributor to Malaysia's economy, is home to 6.5 million people, about 20 per cent of the country's population.
As at yesterday, only 4.4 per cent of the state's targeted adult population had been fully inoculated. This was the lowest two-dose vaccination rate in Malaysia, with neighbouring Kuala Lumpur having 10.7 per cent of its target population fully vaccinated.
Mr Khairy had said that vaccinations in Selangor will be ramped up significantly in the coming months, in a bid to allow the state to reopen economically by October.
Yesterday, Selangor saw a record 2,836 new Covid-19 cases, just below half the nationwide tally of 6,276 new cases. So far, it has a total of 245,915 infections and 1,549 deaths.