The government is looking at how it can tailor the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme in the context of people who are refusing the vaccine.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (above), in a parliamentary reply, said the government was weighing a number of options.

Among them include invoking the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, which will allow the government to make it mandatory for every citizen to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The same legal provision has been used to compel people who were exposed to Covid-19 to undergo quarantine and there have been cases where people who broke quarantine rules were jailed.

According to Section 11(3) of that act, it is lawful for an authorized officer to direct anyone living in an infected local area to subject themselves to treatment or immunization, isolation, observation or surveillance, and other measures necessary to control the disease.

Section 11(4) adds: “It shall be lawful for an authorized officer to use such force, with or without assistance, as may be necessary, and to employ such methods as may be sufficient to ensure compliance with any direction issued under subsection (3)”.

Failure to comply can result in imprisonment for up to two years, or a fine, or both for the first offense, and up to five years imprisonment, a fine, or both for subsequent offenses under Section 24.

For now, the government has only invoked this provision for quarantine measures but not for vaccination.

Khairy said another alternative is an “opt-out” option, which is essentially the status quo where any person not vaccinated against Covid-19 won’t be able to enjoy the various relaxations of rules that have been granted to the fully vaccinated.

“Individuals who do not want to vaccinate may opt-out from taking the vaccine and they also agree that they won’t enjoy the benefits received by fully vaccinated individuals,” he said.

This includes access to public facilities such as shopping malls, government premises, university libraries, and the like.

Another proposal, he said, was to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory by sectors such as healthcare, security, education, and services under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994.

However, the different treatment between the fully vaccinated and unvaccinated will be a legal test case for the government.

Already, a number of people who have refused vaccination have taken the government to court, alleging discrimination.

Khairy said whichever route the government decides on will go through the cabinet.

He added that the government estimates those refusing to take the Covid-19 vaccine to be about five percent of the population.

However, he said a concern was when the group spreads false information about the vaccines.

As such, he said legal action has been taken against them under the Penal Code and Sedition Act 1948.



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