Vaccine must be accessible to poor

MIDF Research opines Covid-19 vaccine will be made available 1st at public healthcare facilities before private hospitals


THE urgent need to introduce an effective and safe Covid-19 vaccine must be balanced with a systematic and proficient manufacturing process that is managed by competent parties that can meet the market’s demands.

MIDF Amanah Investment Bank Bhd (MIDF Research) analyst Noor Athila Mohd Razali said selecting the right companies that could manage the fill-and-finish process for the Malaysian market will ensure the sufficient supply of the vaccine and its accessibility, especially for the lower income group.

“The vaccine, once it is made available, will likely fall under the Controlled Medicine of the Poisons Act 1952 jurisdiction where sales and distribution of the vaccine will be restricted to and for registered practitioners and premises, in this case, personnel and facilities that are under the Health Ministry.

“On the local front, pharmaceutical players Pharmaniaga Bhd and Duopharma Biotech Bhd have been named during discussions at the government level to undertake the fill-and-finish process for the vaccine once it is developed.

“The two companies were chosen due to the urgency of the Covid-19 pandemic and to ensure sufficient supply of vaccine for the nation.

“It is also to avoid outside parties from gaining access to the vaccine and re-selling it at higher prices, which would make the vaccine inaccessible to the lower income group,” she told The Malaysian Reserve.

According to Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin agreed that facilities owned by Pharmaniaga and Duopharma would be used for the process to expedite the delivery process.

However, some quarters had raised concerns on the limitation of the parties that are entrusted to hold control of the bottling and distribution process of the vaccine.

Khairy said both firms were chosen due to its unused capacity that can be directed towards the vaccine’s packaging and the selection process was done based on firms’ capacity, which fulfils the Good Manufacturing Practices requirements by the Standard Pharmaceutical Inspection Cooperation Scheme.

The Rembau MP said selection for the purpose would not be limited to the two companies as other local pharmaceutical firms might also obtain similar capacities to produce the vaccine.

Noor Athila said the selection of Pharmaniaga and Duopharma does not come as a surprise as both pharmaceutical manufacturers offer reliable networks of logistics and a larger capacity to re-package the vaccines compared to other local manufacturers.

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said the safety of human vaccines remains the highest priority in manufacturing and production, and should not be compromised at any degree.

“(Every manufacturer of the vaccine) must go through the same scientific rigour, evidence-based approaches and clinical trials for human vaccine development.

“The priority for consideration should not be whether or not the vaccine is foreign or locally made. It should be whether it is safe and of high efficacy. There should be no shortcuts or compromises on safety as these are human vaccines.”

At a media briefing recently, Pharmaniaga said its plant, which can produce 10 million doses per month of 10 doses vial, is ready to begin the fill-and-finish process once the vaccine arrives in Malaysia.

The pharmaceutical firm expects to distribute the vaccine in the first half of next year once it complies with the statutory requirements under the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency.

“When it becomes available, the vaccine for Covid-19 should be treated as a public good and will be widely available for all without any issue of profiteering as it is in the interest of all that as many people around the world must be vaccinated against this virus,” Azrul said.

As for the vaccine’s availability and accessibility, Noor Athila said public healthcare facilities should be prioritised as the designated Covid-19 centres mostly consisted of public hospitals.

“Due to the urgent nature of the Covid-19 pandemic and potentially high cost of the vaccine, we opine that the vaccine will be made available first and foremost at the public healthcare facilities such as the government hospitals, as this is where the treatment for Covid-19 infected cases is held.

“Once the quantities are secured, we do not discount the potential of the vaccine being available at private hospitals.”