Corporations look to private vaccines to fast-track workforce immunity

At the moment, only the govt-sanctioned vaccines are being rolled out since last week

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by BLOOMBERG

CORPORATIONS are looking at commercially-available Covid-19 vaccines as a way to ensure their workforce are inoculated at a more predictable rate compared to the government’s national immunisation programme.

At the moment, only the government-sanctioned vaccines are being rolled out since last week, but several Malaysian companies have been sanctioned to produce or package Covid-19 vaccines commercially.

It is understood large corporations have initiated programmes to procure and immunise their workforce as soon as commercially-available vaccines are approved for use.

However, for smaller companies, the option to vaccinate their entire staff is attractive, but the cost may be prohibitive.

One reason is that no one is sure how much a commercial vaccine dose will cost and the government has not set a definitive date when they will be available in the market.

Malaysian Entrepreneurship Foundation chairman Nitesh Malani said some members are willing to pay for private vaccines to fast-track recovery, especially for the tourism and travel sector.

“It’s a must-have. The government is doing an amazing job in planning for 80% of Malaysians to be vaccinated by 2022.

“The private sector will surely introduce paid vaccines towards the end of the year as more test results are made available,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Malaysian Hairdressing Association founder Billy Lim said the government and/or the private healthcare organisation should provide a clear guideline with full information regarding the procedure, schedule and the targeted people.

“As we know, only the government’s ministry or ministers are authorised to decide and bring in the vaccine, what we can do is just wait and hope for our turn to be vaccinated.

“If there is any private healthcare can fast track the immunisation with free of charge (or affordable price) and approved by the Health Ministry, I think many of us will support the move.”

“We wish everything and the situation could go back to normal as soon as possible.”

SME Association of Malaysia called on the government to include small and medium enterprises (SMEs) under the National Covid-19 Immunisation programme soon.

With SMEs struggling to balance their books, not all SMEs are willing to pay for vaccination in private healthcare, said its president Datuk Michael Kang.

“So far, nobody knows the cost. The government should open up and allow all private clinics to do vaccination,” he said.

The vaccination programme was rolled out on Feb 24, where Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was among the first batch of vaccine recipients.

One major supplier for vaccines is Pharmaniaga Bhd, which has secured supply of the Chinese Sinovac Biotech Ltd vaccine, but there are a slew of Malaysian companies, some of which are not in healthcare, have indicated they are entering the potentially lucrative game.

Last month, Pharmaniaga asked the government to check their credentials.

At a media briefing, MD Datuk Zulkarnain Md Eusope said the government should look into the matter seriously to avoid confusion.

Companies like Solution Group Bhd, Bintai Kinden Corp Bhd, Ho Wah Genting Bhd, Metronic Global Bhd and MyEg Services Bhd have announced their foray into the vaccine supply business.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar, who heads the National Covid-19 Immunisation programme, said these commercial suppliers have nothing to do with the government’s initiative, but they do need government approvals to distribute the vaccines.

Health DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah yesterday announced that the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) has agreed to provide conditional approval for the use of Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca plc and Sinovac in Malaysia.

Dr Noor Hisham said the conditional registration requires the holding companies to submit an analysis of additional and up-to-date data by rolling submission to be evaluated by the NPRA.

The NPRA is still evaluating the Sputnik V vaccine and Sinovac’s fill and finish by Pharmaniaga LifeScience Sdn Bhd.