Malaysia in discussions for Covid-19 vaccine development, testing

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

THE government is currently discussing with a few countries identified with resources to develop the vaccine for Covid-19, noting that if it is chosen as a testing site, side effects and effectiveness would have to be confirmed.

Health DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said two to three countries were identified with the capacity.

“Given that Malaysia is ready to receive the vaccine testing in all aspects, we would have the ability to see if the vaccine is effective or not.

“However, perhaps at the moment, our country does not have the capacity to develop it, but once the vaccine has been identified, we can then study the formula and be able to develop and manufacture the vaccine here,” he said.

It was reported yesterday that the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (Mosti) will be collaborating with the Foreign and Health Ministries to acquire the vaccine by utilising a science diplomacy approach.

The countries that have been identified to cooperate in the vaccine development include China, the UK, South Korea, India, Bosnia and Russia.

The duration to produce Covid-19 vaccine was also considered, which could take around 18 to 24 months.

Subsequently, Mosti has already announced that it is cooperating with the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on the possibility of carrying out clinical tests of the vaccine, whereby a university from China has displayed interest to develop the vaccine via research and tests at the end of April in Malaysia.

In addition, Dr Noor Hisham said the recent antibody test kits that arrived from South Korea is currently being utilised for patients under investigation (PUIs) on their 13th day of quarantine.

“That test kit cannot be used for diagnostics because it is an antibody test kit, which means if the results are negative, it just means that the body has not developed a reaction against the virus.

“However, if it is positive, then the PUI will have to undergo the polymerase chain reaction test to confirm whether the virus is present in the body or not,” he said.

While Covid-19 patients are identified and treated, patients with influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) are also facing heavy surveillance.

“All SARI patients will be treated as Covid-19 positive cases until tests prove otherwise, which is a move to protect frontline medical workers,” he said.

In addition, the ministry has also identified a cluster which began in Pengerang, Johor, whereby the index case was the 1,508th who began to face symptoms on March 12.

The patient was treated at a private clinic on March 16 and was suspected to have dengue and by the next day, had travelled to a few states to visit relatives within Selangor before returning to Pengerang on March 18.

The patient then experienced worsening symptoms and later admitted to Hospital Sultanah Aminah, Johor, on March 20 in a critical condition, and confirmed positive for Covid-19 two days later.

As of April 22, the cluster has involved as many as 15 positive cases comprising 10 colleagues and five family members of the

index case. Seven of the clusters are still under treatment, while eight have recovered completely, and three out of the total number were treated in the intensive care unit (ICU).

As of yesterday, 103 Covid-19 cases in Malaysia have recovered and were discharged, hiking up the total of healed patients to 3,452, while 50 new cases were reported.

Currently, there are a total of 1,987 active cases in the country, whereas 43 of them are being treated in ICU, while 25 of them are requiring respiratory aid.

The cumulative number of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia stands at 5,532 as at press time yesterday, and one more has been added to the death tally, bringing the total to 93.

The latest death involved a 72-year-old Malaysian female who has had cancer and hypertension in her health history.