by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
MALAYSIA is not slow in receiving Covid-19 vaccines while countries in the lead have their advantages, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar (picture) said.
For example, he said, Singapore was able to “place bets” on vaccine candidates earlier because of greater resources.
“With a budget of more than S$1 billion (RM3.04 billion) for their population, which is about the same budget as Malaysia for our population which is roughly five times larger, I am sure they entered into advanced purchase agreements at premium prices ahead of the publication of interim trial data,” Khairy said in an article on his website yesterday.
Indonesia became one of the first countries outside of China to authorise the use of the Sinovac Biotech Ltd vaccine because it had conducted phase three clinical trials for Sinovac.
It is understandable that Sinovac would prioritise countries that ran clinical trials of their vaccine, he added.
Khairy, who co-chair the Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply, also known as JKJAV, said Malaysia offered to be a trial site last year but the manufacturer declined to include Malaysia in its Phase III trial programme because the number of positive cases was low at the time.
Although Malaysia is not among the first, Khairy reiterated that it is not slow in receiving the vaccines.
“Many developed countries have received their vaccines because they have paid a lot to corner the market even before the availability of safety and efficacy data, but we are certainly not laggards.”
He said, for example, Japan placed its order for the Pfizer Inc vaccine in July 2020 and will receive it in February, which is the same time as Malaysia while South Korea placed its order in December 2020, a month after Malaysia and is scheduled to receive the vaccine in the third quarter (3Q) of 2021.
“We made informed procurement decisions based on clinical data assessment without having to pay huge premiums and down payments.
“And crucially, we can learn from the rollout in other countries to ensure effective implementation of our vaccination campaign,” Khairy said.
He said Malaysia’s general population is expected to get the Covid-19 vaccine in 3Q as priority will be given to healthcare and security frontline workers, followed by senior citizens and people with chronic illnesses.
“Only then we will move on to the general population in order to get to a meaningful herd immunity threshold.
“If you are a healthy adult under 60 and not a frontline worker, it is safe to assume that your turn will come by 3Q or after,” he said, adding that Malaysia’s vaccination plan will span 18 months.
He said a February delivery schedule does not mean everyone is vaccinated in the same month.
For the Pfizer vaccine order, he said Malaysia will receive one million doses in 1Q, 1.7 million doses in 2Q, 5.8 million doses in 3Q and 4.3 million doses in 4Q.
Khairy said no country receives their entire order in one shot.
Read our earlier report