JAKARTA, Indonesia

Malaysia will begin a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign by the end of this month, the country’s premier announced on Thursday.

“We are targeting that 80% [of the population], or 26.5 million people, will receive the vaccine free of charge,” Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a televised address to the nation of some 32 million.

Describing the vaccine as a “ray of hope” for the battle against COVID-19, he said the first batches of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive in Malaysia soon.

He said a total of 500,000 medical and non-medical frontline workers will receive jabs in the first phase, which is expected to end by April.

High-risk groups, including senior citizens aged 60 and over, people with disabilities, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, will be the next to be inoculated, the premier said.

“Some 9.4 million people are expected to receive the vaccine in the second phase from April to August,” Muhyiddin added.

The third phase will include vaccinations for people aged 18 and above and will run from May to February next year.

Muhyiddin highlighted that the COVID-19 vaccination drive is the largest immunization program ever to be carried out in the country.

“I call on all Malaysians to mobilize all available resources to ensure its success,” he said, adding that some 600 storage and vaccination centers will be opened nationwide for the campaign.

The prime minister added that authorities will rely on the Emergency Ordinance 2021 to temporarily use halls and other facilities to prepare for the vaccination program.

Malaysia’s virus caseload currently stands at 231,483, including 826 deaths and 181,886 recoveries.

*Writing by Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo from Anadolu Agency’s Indonesian-language services in Jakarta.

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