The vaccine is here

We have 54 vaccine storage sites nationwide, including Sabah and Sarawak, says Khairy

by AFIQ AZIZ / Pic Source: Department of Information Malaysia

A YEAR after Covid-19 broke out, the vaccine of the deadly virus, which has killed over 1,000 people in Malaysia, has finally arrived.

Carried by the national flag carrier’s cargo arm — MABkargo Sdn Bhd using an Airbus 330-300 aircraft — the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipment touched down at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at 10.03am yesterday.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar said the first shipment containing 312,390 doses of the vaccine is set to be delivered to the Klang Valley, Johor and Penang — states which are still reporting high Covid-19 cases.

“The first shipment will be flown to Penang and is scheduled for arrival at 6pm today.

“The vaccine for Johor will be transported by land from Singapore and is scheduled for arrival in Johor Baru at 2pm today,” said the chairman of the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force yesterday, after witnessing the historical arrival of the shipment at KLIA’s Advanced Cargo Centre.

Also present were Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong and Health DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

“In total, we have 54 vaccine storage sites nationwide, including Sabah and Sarawak,” Khairy said.

The inaugural shipment will be sent to 16 sites — six for Selangor, Kuala Lumpur (three), Putrajaya (one), Johor (four) and Penang (two).

“The last-mile delivery will be handled by the pharmacy division of the Health Ministry, from the storage site to the vaccination site,” Khairy said at a virtual press conference.

He announced yesterday that the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme will be rolled out on Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule.

He said on Feb 26, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Dr Noor Hisham will be inoculated, followed by other frontliners who have registered with the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.

“After the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, they will receive the vaccine jab at the Putrajaya Health Clinic,” Khairy said.

To date, Khairy said 271,802 frontliners have registered for the vaccination programme, with 57.3% being medical and health personnel, while 42.7% are from other sectors like the Malaysian Armed Forces, Royal Malaysia Police, Prisons Department, and Fire and Rescue Department.

The government earlier targeted to get 500,000 essential workers to register for the first phase of the immunisation programme slated from February to April this year.

For this, a total of one million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are expected to be distributed by the end of March, with two doses per recipient for an interval of 21 days.

Meanwhile, with the reopening of schools in March and April, Khairy said the government is also looking at including teachers in the first phase of the vaccination plan.

“This has been requested by many groups and we are looking to also prioritise teachers,” he said.

However, the vaccine will only be given after a risk assessment is conducted by health authorities.

“It will be based on risk assessments so we cannot do it for all teachers at once.

“I will ask the Education Ministry to give me a list of teachers with comorbidities as the first priority ahead of schools opening in March,” Khairy said.

He added that the government will also try to accommodate some of the frontline media, subject to availability and supply.

In the event of individuals experiencing serious side effects after receiving the Covid-19 vaccination, the government has agreed to set up a protection scheme.

Among others, Khairy said, the government will consider giving ex-gratia payment under the compensation scheme.

However, he did not disclose specific details such as the amount of payment or details of the side effects, saying they will be announced soon.

Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health president Dr Shawaludin Husin said the arrival of the vaccine will boost public confidence in fighting the pandemic.

This is especially with priority given to frontliners as well as red zone areas like the Klang Valley.

“After a year, we can see the medical and security frontliners burning out, hardly able to get any rest.

“Chosen as the first to be immuned, the vaccine will alleviate their burden and subsequently stop the virus transmission,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

According to the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme handbook launched by Muhyiddin on Feb 16, Malaysia has secured a total of 66.7 million vaccine doses, including 32 million from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE — enough to cover 110% of its population.

It has also reached supply agreements with Britain’s AstraZeneca plc, Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd and CanSino Biologics Inc.

The government has also mulled over procuring the Covid-19 vaccine from the US’ Johnson & Johnson. The vaccine, said Dr Adham, is more attractive as it requires only a single jab.

The vaccination programme is divided into three phases with frontliners scheduled to get the vaccine from this week until April, and the second phase is from April to August this year for senior citizens aged 60 and above, and high-risk groups.

Those aged 18 and above will get inoculated from May 2021 to February 2022.

Read our previous report

Registration for Covid-19 vaccination to remain open until target met