Malaysia mulls procuring Novavax vaccine, may drop J&J, says Khairy

Dr Adham says Malaysia is still waiting for confirmation on haj quota before planning vaccination for haj pilgrims

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by BERNAMA

THE government is considering another vaccine into its procurement portfolio namely the Novavax Inc vaccine from the US, to strengthen the supply for the country’s Covid-19 inoculation drive.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar (picture) said clinical trials conducted in the UK revealed that the two-dose Novavax vaccine has an efficacy rate of 89.3%.

He said the government would likely continue its negotiation with China’s CanSino Biologics Inc to procure the single-dose vaccine as a better option to the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, as the US pharmaceutical company can only supply its vaccine in the fourth quarter this year.

“Therefore, we will speed up negotiations with CanSino, so that we can get a single-dose vaccine in our portfolio,” Khairy said in a joint press conference with Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba on the progress of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP) yesterday.

He said the government, through the Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply, also known as JKJAV, will finalise its decision on Thursday either to continue discussing with J&J or drop it as the company can only supply over two million doses of vaccine by year-end, which is considered late for the country.

As for the Pfizer Inc-BioNTech SE, Khairy said an additional supply of the vaccine is expected to be delivered on March 11. He said Malaysia has received 520,650 doses of the vaccine to date.

He added that 100,000 doses of the finished products of the Sinovac Biotech Ltd vaccine will be received from Beijing on March 15, followed by another 100,000 doses on March 19.

The 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine will be used in Phase 1 of the NIP.

On a separate matter, Khairy said he has received over 200 complaints of vaccine queue jumpers, including those involving politically-linked individuals.

He said the government has taken actions on the complaints and cancelled all the vaccination appointments of the queue jumpers.

He added that the whistleblower system has been effective and allowed the government to make corrections.

A total of 3.85 million people have registered for vaccination via the MySejahtera app as of 2pm yesterday, while 173,575 people registered online at vaksincovid.gov.my and 873 people did through the hotline.

Meanwhile, Dr Adham said Malaysia is still waiting for confirmation on the haj quota this year before being able to plan the vaccination drive for haj pilgrims this year.

He said the Ministry of Health (MoH) would have the capacity to handle the vaccination for haj pilgrims without the need to include private facilities.

“Haj pilgrims involve between 30,000 and 50,000 people. This is easy for the MoH to handle within its facilities. If a vaccine is required, we have two candidates, which are Pfizer or Sinovac vaccines,” Dr Adham said at the press conference.

He also said the AstraZeneca plc vaccine may be delivered earlier and can be administered to haj pilgrims.

The minister said haj pilgrims this season will be going to Saudi Arabia starting in mid-June and vaccination would be done as early as May.

Saudi Arabian Health Minister Dr Tawfiq Al-Rabiah was previously reported to have said only people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to perform the haj this year.

However, he did not mention whether pilgrims from outside Saudi Arabia were allowed to perform the haj pilgrimage.

Last year, the Saudi Arabian government limited the number of pilgrims to 1,000 to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.


Read our previous report here

Dr Adham: Haj pilgrims will be vaccinated in May if immunisation required