Malaysia is in final stage of negotiations with other producers to get guaranteed vaccine supply for over 80% of its population
by RAHIMI YUNUS / Pic by BLOOMBERG
THE government is sourcing Covid-19 vaccines from five producers, including China and Russia, to cover over 80% of the country’s population with a total estimated cost of US$504.4 million (RM2.05 billion).
Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said a deal with a UK-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca plc has been sealed to acquire 6.4 million dosages of guaranteed Covid-19 vaccine supply for an additional 10% of the population.
He said it would bring total coverage to 40% of the population, including 30% from the previous agreements with the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (Covax) and Pfizer Inc.
Additionally, he said Malaysia is in the final stage of negotiations with other producers, namely Sinovac Biotech Ltd, CanSino Biologics Inc and Gamaleya National Centre, to get guaranteed vaccine supply for over 80% of the country’s population or 26.5 million people, exceeding the initial target of 70%.
He said the government is expected to spend US$504.4 million in vaccine procurement.
“The agreements with Sinovac, CanSino and Gamaleya would give added value to local science and technology sectors that would give returns to the people and national development.
“These include vaccine bottling in the country, education and development, knowledge sharing and technology transfer,” Muhyiddin said in a virtual address yesterday.
He added that the government will continue to make deals with other pharmaceutical companies to ensure the country gets enough access to vaccines.
Malaysia’s vaccine deals thus far stand with US-headquartered Pfizer, which achieved a 95% interim vaccine efficacy, UK’s AstraZeneca (60% to 90% vaccine efficacy), Russia’s Gamaleya (91.4), as well as China’s Sinovac and CanSino with their vaccine effectiveness expected to be announced later.
Muhyiddin said he will be among the first individuals in the country to take the vaccine injection to convince the people about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.
He said frontliners will follow next and then high-risk groups, such as senior citizens, patients with non-communicable diseases and chronic respiratory diseases.
Separately, Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said in a statement that Malaysia’s current vaccine procurement strategy is late, but sound.
“Last night, we saw the first of Singapore’s vaccine orders arrive at Changi Airport. Vaccination will soon start in that country.
“Thanks to the joint efforts of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) and the Ministry of Health, despite a late start compared to some of our neighbours. We shall finish this year with a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel,” Azrul said.
He said several attacks by politicians on the government’s vaccine procurement strategy — with accusations ranging from overpaying to misleading the public on how much will be spent on these life-saving therapies — undermine and erode public confidence in the efforts to protect Malaysians.
He added that the volume and the country’s economic status have an impact on pricing, adding that the European Union pricing does not include vaccine logistical costs to vaccination sites.
He said the Galen Centre estimated that the Pfizer vaccine at US$19.50 per dose would cost around US$249.6 million.
Mosti Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar stated in Parliament recently that the government is able to secure the price of a single dose to be less than RM100, including logistical costs up to the vaccination sites that will be handled by Pfizer.
Azrul said this would mean Malaysia is probably paying around RM1.2 billion for that vaccine.
For Covax, he said the centre estimated that it would cost RM275 million, or RM86 per person. For AstraZeneca, he said RM89.6 million is estimated, or RM28 per person.
“A large amount of protest and deliberate misinformation are also a result of middlemen or tender agents being excluded from these vaccine deals. We commend the government for negotiating directly with the pharmaceutical companies concerned.
“This is what happens when the government deals directly with the supplier and no middlemen such as tender agents are involved. A lot of public money is saved, the cost involved is reduced significantly,” he added.