Vaccine on Malaysian shores by February

Apart from the 20% of population coverage from P zer, the country also procures 10% from Covax and another 10% from AstraZeneca

by S BIRRUNTHA / Pic by BLOOMBERG

AS THE government strives to balance the country’s financial resources amid the economic turmoil due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 82.8% of Malaysians are assured of their vaccine supply by next year.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar said Malaysia’s first batch of Pfizer Inc vaccine doses are expected to arrive by February.

“No company can sell 100% of Malaysia’s needs because developed and rich countries such as the US, European Union and Singapore have a lot of money to buy earlier as they have a better budget than us,” he said at a press conference in Putrajaya yesterday.

Apart from the 20% of population coverage from Pfizer, the country has also procured 10% from the World Health Organisation’s Covax facility and another 10% from AstraZeneca plc.

Khairy said the government is in the final stages of negotiations with Sinovac Biotech Ltd, CanSino Biologics Inc and the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology to acquire more vaccines to cover 42.8% of the population.

He added that the government is also looking into purchasing enough Pfizer vaccines to cover another 20% of the population.

Khairy said Malaysia now has more than enough Covid-19 vaccine deals in the coming months to completely vaccinate the country’s entire adult population.

However, the lack of clinical trials on children will leave them out of the vaccination programme, which is about 30% of the remaining population.

“With the procurement of new vaccines, the government’s goal of achieving 70% herd immunity will be met,” he said.

Khairy said Malaysia does not have the financial ability equivalent to other developed nations, and that has resulted in the delay in terms of acquiring the vaccines.

He cited Singapore as one of the developed countries that received its first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech SE vaccine on Monday.

“Singapore signed the purchase agreement a few months before us because their financial capability is much bigger than us, let’s just put it that way.

“We took our time to get the best deal possible. If it is a two-month variant, I think it’s reasonable,” he said.

Khairy said Canada, for example, had made a Covid-19 vaccine procurement five times bigger than Malaysia for its population.

He said the special Covid-19 vaccine committee, together with the Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, will be submitting a National Vaccination Plan (NVP) next month with details on how the vaccinations will be implemented nationwide.

Details of the plan would also include which hospitals’ vaccines will be available, as well as a voluntary registration process for the public who would like to get vaccinated early and plans for vaccination for foreign workers and non-citizens.

Meanwhile, Khairy said he is more than ready to brief the Public Accounts Committee on the cost of each Covid-19 vaccine agreed to be purchased, if the committee promises not to disclose the detail.

He added that the details will be subject to confidentiality and non-disclosure conditions set by the pharmaceutical giants that are supplying the vaccines.

Citing the action by the Belgium’s Budget State Secretary Eva De Bleeker’s revelation of vaccine prices, Khairy said his party is concerned that such disclosures in negotiations could affect the agreement between Malaysia and the manufacturers.

He said the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca are procured through direct negotiations, with prices received straight from the manufacturer.

Khairy added that there is no involvement of a middle man in the procurement process of the vaccines, as there were many rumours that the government was overpaying for its own batch of vaccines.