Monday, 1 March 2020: In several occasions, Science, Technology and Innovation minister Khairy Jamaluddin stated that the government has no plans to make the Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory, adding it will be a voluntary exercise.

However, on Friday, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that the travel ban between states and districts may go on until at least 70% of the population have been vaccinated for Covid-19. He added that the government may consider reopening borders once 70% of the population have been vaccinated. 

The Center for Market Education (CME) would like to stress how the two positions are in clear conflict; in fact, while Dr Hisham’s statement does not mention vaccination obligatoriness, it implies it de facto: if Malaysians cannot even think about inter-district travel without mass vaccination, this means that vaccination becomes hiddenly compulsory.  

Dr Carmelo Ferlito, CEO of the Center for Market Education, while praising Khairy Jamaluddin’s clarity on the matter (and his respect for the freedom of choice), observed that “the following conflicting statements by the Health DG added confusion, making difficult for individuals and businesses to take rational and informed decisions”. 

CME is highly concerned about the consequence of a lack of clarity on the matter. If the issue will not be clarified, the potential negative effects – in particular due to the 70% vaccination target – include: 

  • Collapse of the tourism industry, with disastrous consequences on employment: it has not to be forgotten that economic sectors are interrelated and the collapse of one industry has repercussions on the rest of the economic activities.
  • Leaving both domestic and foreign investors on a “wait and see” mood as prolonged movement restrictions impede the choice and implementation of long-term business strategies, therefore further moving forward the chances of a sound recovery path with more negative consequences on employment.
  • Psychological stress on the generality of the population, which will have to face crucial decisions “with a gun pointed at the head”, and therefore without the necessary lucidity required by the case; this is all the more true for individuals with different medical conditions (such as cancer) for which the vaccine effects are yet to be clarified.

In conclusion, the Center for Market Education invites Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to clear the sky after the confusion created by the most recent declarations about the 70% target. CME hopes that the importance of freedom of choice will be re-stated, together with the need for policy-making to re-shift in the hands of elected and accountable politicians.

For media enquiries, please email or

About CME: The Center for Market Education (CME) is a boutique think-tank based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As an academic and educational institution, CME aims to promote a more pluralistic and multidisciplinary approach to economics and to spread the knowledge of a sounder economics, grounded in the understanding of market forces. In order to do so, CME is not only involved in academic initiatives, but it organizes seminars, webinars and tailor-made economics classes for students, journalists, businesspeople and professionals who wish to better understand the relevance of economics for their daily lives and activities. Economics matters and needs to be presented in a fashion in which the link with reality is clearly visible. In this sense, we look not only at theoretical economics but also at policy making, with an emphasis on the unintended consequences generated by political actions.