Covid-19 vaccine Malaysia: 6 biggest questions answered for employers

May 31, 2021

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In early 2021, the Malaysian Government announced that they would receive the Covid-19 vaccine supply and distribute them to Malaysian citizens in batches, starting from essential service workers like healthcare, senior and high-risk group (e.g. people with chronic disease) first.

Although the vaccine for the long pandemic is here, the Government projected by February 2022, we will gain herd immunity — when the majority of the population is vaccinated and immune, an infected person can't spread the virus anymore.

What this means is that It'll take some time before we can go back to the old normal. 

The question is, how will employers be affected, and most importantly, what is your role during these recovery times?

Read on to learn more about the Covid-19 vaccine in Malaysia and your rights and role during these critical times.

1. What is the Covid-19 vaccine, and how does it work?

Many people see the vaccine as a cure, but it's not quite right. A cure is a substance that kills the harmful bacteria causing your illness.

A Covid-19 vaccine is actually a weakened, non-dangerous fragment of Covid-19 bacteria that triggers your body to build its own antibodies to fight against it.

In Malaysia, there are 5 types of vaccine that the Malaysia Government has acquired:

  1. Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
  2. Astra Zeneca
  3. Sinovac
  4. CanSinoBIO
  5. Sputnik V

2. Are Covid-19 vaccines safe?

Although many citizens were rejoiced to hear the emergence of the Covid-19 vaccines, various concerns were triggered when rumours of the vaccine causing harm started to spread.

You may have heard of people falling sick after receiving the vaccine — which are normal signs that your body is building protection. 

Some of the common side effects of a Covid-19 vaccine are:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • body aches
  • chills
  • Nausea
  • Swelling, pain, redness, rash, or irritation around the injection site

These side effects should go away in a few days, and some people have no side effects at all.

There’s a remote chance a person may have severe allergic reactions or side effects. For instance, the chances of a person developing severe side effects are, on average, less than 1%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Employers can help reduce the concerns by educating your employees with reliable facts and information about the vaccine.

You can share Malaysia's National Immunisation Programme Handbook with them or invite healthcare experts to answer your employees' questions and concerns.

If your employees require further information for each vaccine, you can download the fact sheets below and distribute them in your company:

  1. Pfizer-BioNTech
  2. Astra Zeneca
  3. Coronavac
  4. Sputnik V | Side effects of Sputnik V

3. Are all Covid-19 vaccines the same?

Each vaccine differs by country of origin, type of technology used to create it, efficacy and more. The following table summarises them quite well:


Source: https://www.vaksincovid.gov.my/pdf/National_COVID-19_Immunisation_Programme.pdf 

By understanding how each vaccine works, chances of gaining immunity, and origin country, your employees can make a wiser decision to choose the vaccine that's right for them.

4. When and how you can get your employees vaccinated

The vaccine Malaysia schedule is broken down into 3 phases as illustrated in the image below:


Source: https://www.vaksincovid.gov.my/pdf/National_COVID-19_Immunisation_Programme.pdf 

There are 5 ways to register for the Covid-19 vaccine in Malaysia: 

  1. MySejahtera App
  2. Hotline (call 1800-888-828)
  3. Outreach programme for rural and interior areas
  4. Special Website: www.vaksincovid.gov.my 
  5. Public and private health facilities

Of course, your employees can register themselves, but you can encourage them to register and ease the vaccine registration process.

Some employees may still have doubts or need to be guided through the registration process, especially tech-illiterate senior employees.

Here are some suggestions for you to smoothen the employee experience:

  • Educate your employees on the facts. You can share credible and accessible information on the vaccines' safety, efficacy, and side effects.
  • Engage relevant healthcare experts to share scientific information, answer employee questions and address concerns.
  • Bring in religious leaders to help present facts and offset any misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccines.
  • Ask vaccinated employees to share their experiences in town halls and meetings.

For example, Verizon has provided an online Covid-19 vaccine FAQ guide for employees, including data on the specified vaccine, how to register, and internal company policies associated with the vaccination.

OCBC Bank Singapore organised a series of seminars with reputable local medical experts to provide accurate information to its employees on a range of topics, including vaccine effectiveness, side effects, and the impact of vaccines on physical distancing.

Learn more about the National Immunisation Programme here

5. What are your employer rights in Malaysia vaccination?

You might ask, "Is it okay to make vaccination compulsory for my employees?"

The Malaysian Government has not made Covid-19 vaccination mandatory but is strongly encouraged. However, those who refuse may get movement restraints.

Instead of pushing your employees to receive a vaccine, here's what you can do:

You can incentivise and reward employees who took the vaccine, such as cash bonuses, retirement contributions, vouchers, and other gifts as part of the employee benefits.

However, there are cases where employees refuse to take the vaccine due to safety concerns, doubts, or it's against their religious beliefs.

In this case, educate them about the vaccine, the ingredients used, how it works, and its side effects. You may also allow similar religious employees to share their experiences during town halls.

If the refusal persists and other vaccinated employees feel uncomfortable, you may restrain the employee's movement.

It's your duty to provide a safe working environment for all employees and comply with SOPs — practising social distancing within the office premises, temperature checks, compulsory use of face masks, frequent sanitisation to discharge the obligation vested in the employer.

6. How will this affect your company policies?

Some companies are investigating corporate policies, for instance, regarding employee vaccination and the ability to work on-site or travel. Such efforts are still in the early stages, but employees said they need more support from their employers.

According to a survey by McKinsey, the following actions are highly effective in helping employees getting vaccinated, but they're the least pursued by employers:

  1. Covering transportation costs, offering free rides to the vaccination centres
  2. Booking vaccination appointments for staff
  3. Making senior leaders' vaccination intent visible
  4. Offering vaccination on-site
  5. Offering positive rewards and incentives
  6. Holding town halls and expert sessions to share information

Source: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/pharmaceuticals-and-medical-products/our-insights/getting-to-work-employers-role-in-covid-19-vaccination 

To assist your employees in receiving a vaccine, you can consider incorporating some of the suggestions above in your company policies.

Your role as an employer

One of the most important things you can do as an employer is to make sure your employees are safe.

You have the right and responsibility to make sure that your workplace is safe, but you can't force your employees to receive a vaccine.

Instead, here's what you could do:

  1. Educate them about the facts and make them accessible to all employees.
  2. Bring in the relevant experts to address employees' concerns.
  3. Guide senior employees to register for the vaccine.
  4. Offer positive rewards to encourage employees to receive a vaccine.
  5. Provide paid time-off or flexible working hours to accommodate vaccine appointments.
  6. Consider updating your company policies in regards to the vaccination.

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