by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by TMR FILE
DELAYS in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines in Malaysia have been attributed to the absence of clinical trials at home, according to Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar (picture).
The country is currently behind Indonesia, Brazil and Turkey, in its preparation to rollout millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines, the minister said.
Several companies from China last year pulled out from taking part in human clinical trials for Covid-19 vaccines in Malaysia due to the country’s declining number of active cases at the time.
However, Khairy said the country is not too late in terms of procuring and distributing the Covid-19 vaccines.
“We are designing a vaccination programme that is effective and can reduce a lot of wastage.
The government will roll them out as efficiently as possible to the public.
“We would carry out the immunisation programme for Covid-19 within the first quarter of 2021,” he told reporters at a press conference of the signing ceremony between Pharmaniaga Bhd and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd for a bulk of vaccine supply yesterday.
The signing ceremony was witnessed by Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba.
Pharmaniaga entered into an agreement with Sinovac Life Sciences Co Ltd yesterday for the supply of 14 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine in Malaysia.
Under the agreement, Pharmaniaga will begin the bottling process for the Sinovac vaccine by the end of next month and distribute it to the public by end-March.
The pharmaceutical company, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Pharmaniaga LifeScience Sdn Bhd (PLS), will invest about RM3 million to upgrade the small volume injection (SVI) plant to enable it to carry out the bottling process or “fill and finish” of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The bottling project will be carried out by PLS in a modified hightech SVI plant in Puchong. The agreement between Pharmaniaga and Sinovac is a private initiative.
“We have facilitated this because we have indicated to Pharmaniaga that we are interested in the Sinovac vaccine. On the government’s procurement part, it will be concluded by next week, hopefully,” Khairy said.
He added that the cost of purchasing the Sinovac vaccine from Pharmaniaga is much lower than buying directly from the company in China.
The government will also be paying less for the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Sinovac, as the bottling process will be carried out locally.
“Pharmaniaga has been entrusted with the task of overseeing the bottling process and the cost was presented to the Public Accounts Committee. They have agreed to the price mentioned,” he said.
However, the minister declined to disclose detailed information on the procurement cost of the vaccine as he is bound by a confidentiality agreement with the vaccine manufacturer.
Khairy also said the government would soon get the halal status recognition for the Sinovac vaccine before it is distributed.
“The Indonesian Ulama Council had previously verified the halal status of this vaccine, and we will do the same with the Malaysian Islamic Development Department.
“We will guarantee this vaccine is safe for Muslims to use,” he added.
Meanwhile, Pharmaniaga said it is confident in successfully carrying out the vaccine bottling task, as its technical experts have been working on setting up a halal vaccine plant in Malaysia since 2017.
Its group MD Datuk Zulkarnain Md Eusope said the agreement with Sinovac is historic and would give Pharmaniaga and Malaysians considerable returns.
“This technology transfer will further strengthen Pharmaniaga’s plan to develop the world’s first halal vaccine plant by 2023, which supports the government’s aspiration to reduce dependence on foreign companies in providing vaccines to the people,” he said during the ceremony.
He added that the company has 26 years of experience managing vaccine distribution and has the well-established infrastructure to support the needs.
Read our earlier report