ON July 9, 2021, National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) Coordinating Minister Khairy Jamaluddin was quoted to have criticised vaccine discrimination by the European Union and Saudi Arabia that only permit entry to travellers inoculated with western-made Covid-19 vaccines.
On July 16, 2021, the same Minister said the decision to stop administering the Sinovac vaccine under PICK is because its delivery has been completed and has nothing to do with the vaccine’s efficacy while adding that the government had decided to use the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the immunisation programme starting next month. Meanwhile, the Sinovac stockpile would be reserved for those who are allergic to other vaccines.
The priority of the Malaysian government is to care for the lives of Malaysians. While it does that, it cannot disengage from the economic status of the country. Moving forward, countries like Malaysia have to thread very carefully as we need countries in the west as much as we need countries in the east in reviving and promoting our growth.
Case in point is the “Notice on Adjusting the Requirements for Pre-departure Testing to China” posted on July 19, 2021 on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Singapore.
The notice imposes stricter travel rules for Singaporeans who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, as opposed to Singapore recipients of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines.
It is not known whether the new directive was issued in response to the Singapore government’s response on 7 July 2021 that the Sinovac vaccine had been excluded from its national vaccination programme as there is little data on the vaccine’s efficacy against Covid-19 variants of concern.
According to the Malaysia Trade Statistics Review, China leapt from 4th place of Malaysia’s largest trading partner in 2001 to become the country’s largest trading partner since 2009.
Its two-way trade with Malaysia was valued at RM316.6 billion in 2019 and constituted 17.2% of Malaysia’s trade.
According to the website of the Embassy of China in Malaysia, it states that,
1. trade between China and Malaysia grew 5.7% to US$131.16 billion (RM541.43 billion) last year despite the pandemic;
2. Malaysia remains the second largest trading partner of China among Asean countries; and
3. China’s investments in Malaysia increased by nearly US$1 billion with a growth rate of 22.6%, and China is largest foreign investment source of Malaysia’s manufacturing industry for 4 consecutive years.
Moving forward, as Malaysia has signed the historic Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement with 14 other participating countries, it is projected that the country will take this opportunity to further strengthen bilateral trade with China as both are members of RCEP.
Thus, if the Chinese government were to introduce the same regulation as what was done in Singapore on Malaysians travelling to China for businesses, it would only impede and create unnecessary costs on Malaysian businesses already struggling to keep afloat and compete in an ever increasing and competitive environment.
I hope the government would continue to use all types of vaccines available in our efforts to vaccinate the country. Alternatively, it could give the people the option to choose the vaccine they want. Business people who have ongoing business dealings with China might opt for Sinovac for their vaccinations. – July 26, 2021.
* FLK reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.