pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
THE Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) has tabled an application under the 12th Malaysia Plan (RMK-12) to establish a National Vaccine Centre.
Its Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar (picture), in a parliamentary written reply on Monday, said the centre would help expedite the process of finding and developing various local vaccines and therapeutic products at the clinical stage.
“The centre would act as a strategic platform based on an open innovative collaboration concept for all researchers from government agencies, universities and industries, to speed up the development process to reach the clinical level,” he said in response to Senator Idris Ahmad’s question on the status of the country’s efforts to find a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus.
Deputy Health DG Dr Hishamshah Ibrahim, who is in charge of research and technical support, had in June said domestic vaccine expertise is an area of development that is worth investing in for the long term.
“We are revisiting plans for a National Vaccine Centre. In my opinion, we should have established this years ago, but better late than never.
“It will of course take big capital expenditure and a long gestation period, but it’s worth investing in the long term to develop domestic human vaccine expertise,” Dr Hishamshah said in a report written in collaboration with Geneva-based non-profit Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative.
He said Malaysia has pockets of people domestically that have the requisite skills to be involved in vaccine research.
“We just need to bring them together, design a strategy and mobilise the necessary resources,” Dr Hishamshah said.
Khairy Jamaluddin last week announced that Malaysia will join 172 countries to participate in the Covid-19 vaccine global access plan (Covax), co-led by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
He said the government is currently discussing the terms of Malaysia’s participation together with the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (Gavi) that is coordinating Covax.
Malaysia is also preparing an agreement to join the Coalition for Epidemic and Preparedness Innovations (Cepi). Covax — coordinated by Gavi, Cepi and WHO — is a pooled procurement mechanism for new Covid-19 vaccines that aims to provide participating economies fair and equitable access to vaccines by pooling purchasing power from these nations across a range of candidate vaccines.
The 172 economies comprise 80 higher-income countries that will finance the Covid-19 vaccines from their own national budgets, while the remaining 92 low- and middle-income countries will receive financial support to access the vaccines.
Asean economies including Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam will be participating in Covax.
Khairy Jamaluddin said the government is preparing government-to-government agreements with China to get access to coronavirus vaccines developed in that country. Malaysia has also recently signed a letter of intent with the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Malaysia to obtain further information on the Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V.