PETALING JAYA: Offering free vaccinations to foreigners, including children of immigrants and refugees, will save the country high medical bills in the long run.
Tenaganita, which champions the rights of women and migrants, hopes the Health Ministry’s suggestion to provide this service will see fruit.
Tenaganita Director Aegile Fernandes said it will definitely help reduce the spread of infectious diseases.
“We are concerned over this issue. We have been asking the government to look at foreigners and the refugee population who are here, and at the same time to make sure Malaysians get vaccinated.
“It is the only way to have a healthy Malaysia,” she told FMT.
She was responding to Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam, who had said the ministry may offer the free vaccinations to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. There are already reports of a hike in the number of measles and chicken pox cases in Malaysia.
However, the move needs the decision of the finance ministry and home ministry before a decision is made as the free vaccination programme can cost the government about RM10 million annually.
Fernandes said many foreigners live in deplorable conditions, with 20 workers living in a small place used for cooking, eating, sleeping and bathing.
“The same toilet is used by so many people. Some of them do not have any knowledge of cleanliness, prompting us to organise health talks.”
However, she said police would harress refugees and immigrants, causing them to stop these health talks. “We hope the police will stop. The migrants are there to learn about hygiene and cleanliness.”
Fernandes urged the health ministry to work with NGOs to reduce health problems among migrants.
“NGOs are on the ground and we can work with the ministry to tackle health issues affecting migrants.”