Biggest and most populous economy in SE Asia announce multiple agreements to receive potential vaccines to fight Covid-19 in the region
by BLOOMBERG / pic by BLOOMBERG
MANILA • In the evolving race for Covid-19 vaccines, Indonesia has taken the apparent lead in SouthEast Asia with the delivery of vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd this month.
South-East Asia’s biggest and most populous economy has also announced multiple agreements to receive potential vaccines, as the nation fights the worst coronavirus outbreak in the region.
Yet, when it comes to the Pfizer Inc-BioNTech SE vaccine that has been bolstered by UK and US regulatory approvals, smaller but wealthier Singapore has the advantage — it expects the first shipments by the end of December.
Both countries are also involved in vaccine development and manufacturing, a testament to the variety of strategies employed across the region. Here’s how the region of more than 650 million people is dealing with differing fiscal, demographic and distribution challenges in their vaccine strategies.
Strategy: Indonesia needs about 246 million doses to vaccinate 107 million people aged 18 to 59 years old.
The world’s fourth most populous nation is banking on both Western and Chinese vaccines, ordering 125.5 million doses from Sinovac and 30 million from Novavax Inc, while developing 57.6 million of its own Merah Putih.
It’s seeking another 16 million from the global GAVI vaccine facility while talks are also on for 100 million from AstraZeneca plc and Pfizer for possible supply.
Indonesia plans to be able to vaccinate 16 million people a month, with production seen as the main bottleneck instead of the logistics of getting the shots across thousands of islands.
The country will offer free vaccines to people, and President Joko Widodo has ordered the finance minister to reallocate spending on other matters toward the free shots. He will also be the first to be inoculated as a way to show people that it is safe.
Timeline: Fourth quarter (4Q) of 2020 (4Q20) — Sinovac.
Indonesia received 1.2 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine earlier in December, with another 1.8 million shots to arrive next month.
Its drug regulator is running checks on the vaccine to issue emergency use authorisation as soon as possible, after which it will begin vaccinating frontliners like health workers, police and military.
Sinovac will also ship raw material for 45 million doses to be manufactured by Indonesia’s PT Bio Farma by January. The state firm aims to produce 24 million doses a month.
Strategy: The country wants to have at least 50 million vaccine shots next year to inoculate about a fourth of the population, the bulk of which will likely arrive by the end of 2021 or early 2022. Priority for vaccinations will be given to medical frontliners and workers in industries deemed critical, including low-income groups and those identified as at risk.
The nation is eyeing 73.2 billion pesos (RM6.09 billion) in vaccine purchases that it plans to fund with financing from multilateral agencies, state-owned banks and companies and bilateral sources, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said.
Timeline: 1Q21 — Sinovac, Sputnik V.
Vaccinations could start as early as the 1Q21 using Sinovac and Russia’s Sputnik V shots, according to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez. He said the Philippines has informed the Chinese manufacturer it needs 25 million doses for 2021. Sinovac has pledged to ship supplies at least 60 days after a deal is signed, which the country aims to seal in December.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the nation’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow emergency use of vaccines that have data from “adequate and well-known controlled trials”, cutting the approval process to three weeks from six months.
Sinovac, Sputnik V are yet to receive the local FDA approval.
Timeline: May 2021 — AstraZeneca.
The country will receive as early as May 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines purchased by local companies which pooled about 800 million pesos to buy three million shots.
Strategy: The country seeks to buy shots for 70% of its population, more than double the current 30% coverage, Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said this month. It also plans to tap the Covax facility to provide vaccines for 10% of the population while reaching out to 10 companies with vaccines that are at phase-III clinical trials.
Malaysia will conduct its first Covid-19 vaccine trial in December as part of a government-to-government agreement with China. It will be a Phase-III trial on a vaccine candidate developed by the Institute of Medical Biology Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding with China in October to be given priority access to Covid-19 vaccines that China develops.
Timeline: 1Q21 — Pfizer.
Pfizer will deliver to Malaysia one million doses in the 1Q21, 1.7 million in the second, 5.8 million in the third and 4.3 million in the final three months of the year, Muhyiddin said late in November.
The agreement with Pfizer covers 12.8 million doses to vaccinate 6.4 million people and is contingent on the vaccine being approved by the US FDA and Malaysia’s regulator.
Strategy: The city-state has set aside roughly US$750 million (RM3.04 billion) for vaccines, tapping the likes of Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings Inc, Moderna Inc, Pfizer and Sinovac for supplies. It estimates there will be enough doses for its population by 3Q21, and will be able to offer vaccinations for the entire population of more than five million by the end of next year.
Frontliners, the elderly and vulnerable will be prioritised in the nation’s vaccination programme.
It aims to vaccinate the entire adult population, though this will be voluntary.
Vaccines will be free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents.
Note: In addition to those listed below, Moderna has concluded an agreement with the Ministry of Health to supply the country with its mRNA-1273 vaccine
Timeline: 4Q20 — Pfizer
Singapore will receive its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by end-December. The shots have been approved by the Health Sciences Authority.
Timeline: Early 2021 — Arcturus.
Arcturus and Singapore’s Economic Development Board have entered into a supply agreement for the right to buy the ARCT-021 vaccine. Arcturus may ship the first batch of the Covid-19 vaccine it’s developing with local scientists early next year.
Results so far show that the vaccine could be effective as a single dose, the Straits Times reported, citing a professor who co-developed the vaccine with Arcturus.
Strategy: Thailand wants to inoculate about 50% of its population by next year. It plans to get 26 million doses from the World Health Organisation-backed Covax programme, 26 million from AstraZeneca and 13 million more from other sources, providing immunity to more than 30 million people.
Not wanting to rely solely on inoculations from abroad, Thailand is also developing its own anti-coronavirus shot.
An mRNA vaccine research project is set to start the first phase of clinical trials in April and the second phase in June. The vaccines may be available by end-2021 after receiving emergency-use authorisation.
Timeline: Mid-2021 — AstraZeneca.
Thailand has an advance agreement with AstraZeneca to secure Covid-19 vaccines, which are expected to be approved and produced by mid-2021, PM Prayuth Chan-o-cha said.
Thailand may receive vaccine doses by mid-2021 and these are expected to be distributed from then.
Under agreement with AstraZeneca, Siam Bioscience will produce vaccines at its facilities, and Thailand will receive technology transfer.
Thailand will supply coronavirus vaccines at “reasonable prices” to Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam when it begins production, Prayuth said.
Strategy: The country is working on developing vaccines and will work with suppliers when vaccines are available, according to a spokeswoman at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Vietnam is in talks with Pfizer and other medicine manufacturers in the US, UK, China and Russia on acquiring Covid-19 shots, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported, citing Health Ministry officials.
Vietnam’s Nonogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology Co Ltd plans to start this month first-phase clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine Nanocovax, with production in 2022 if tests are successful.
Two other Vietnamese vaccine manufacturers will start human trials for their Covid-19 shots in February and March.