by AFIQ AZIZ / pic by BERNAMA
PHARMANIAGA Bhd’s wholly owned unit, PHARMANIAGA LifeScience Sdn Bhd (PLS), is expected to double its Covid-19 vaccine production capacity to four million doses monthly by August.
Pharmaniaga CEO Datuk Zulkarnain Md Eusope (picture) said to date, PLS was only able to produce two million doses a month of the fill-and-finish China’s Sinovac vaccine.
It is part of the firm’s effort to assist the federal government in expediting the inoculation process under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP).
“We are currently finalising the relevant details and reports for Sinovac in China. Once the report has been submitted and is approved, we can begin to move towards increasing the production capacity,” he said in a press conference after a tour of PLS’s production facility in Puchong, Selangor, with Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
The factory currently has bottled about 1.8 million doses of vaccine, distributed to the government under the NIP. PLS is expected to complete another two million doses by the end of June.
Zulkarnain said the fill-and-finish process was made to accommodate the expected bottleneck order from Sinovac Biotech Ltd, after receiving the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) approval next month.
WHO previously only approved the vaccines made by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE, AstraZeneca plc, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna Inc.
Malaysia’s National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency has approved Sinovac to be used under the NIP. Other approved vaccines are Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca.
For June, July and August, Pharmaniaga is expected to receive three million doses of completely imported Sinovac vaccine from China.
Zulkarnain said should there be any cases of shortfall due to high orders for the Sinovac, Pharmaniaga is ready to produce backup doses.
“We are negotiating with the government, so that in the event they could not source other supplies of vaccines from abroad, we will step in to provide support,” he said.
Commenting on the state government and private entities’ request to procure the vaccine, Zulkarnain said the matter is still being deliberated by the company and the government.
He stressed that only Pharmaniaga is allowed to distribute Sinovac vaccine in the country, based on the agreement the company signed with Sinovac early this year.
“At the moment, we are still waiting for the federal government’s approval to supply to any state,” he said.
Last week, it was reported that the Selangor government was looking to purchase 2.5 million doses of Covid-19 for businesses and vulnerable groups.
However, NIP coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar said agreements on vaccine procurements between Putrajaya and vaccine suppliers stated that any supply must prioritise the NIP agenda, or the federal government.
The Selangor administration did not specify which vaccines the state is procuring, but stated that the procurement is in the “final process”.
Zulkarnain noted that several parties, including state governments, did approach Pharmaniaga to procure the vaccine, but he stressed that the distributions will only prioritise the NIP.
Commenting on the company’s prospects this year relating to Sinovac’s fill-and-finish business, Zulkarnain said the firm is now in the mode of “social obligation”.
“We have yet to calculate this because it depends on the government requirement. But of course we will announce it at the end of the second quarter (of this financial year),” he added.
Meanwhile, Ismail Sabri said he is satisfied with the current progress of the fill-and-finish Sinovac vaccine as witnessed at PLS’s production facility.
“I understand the facility can produce up to 500,000 doses every week. So by the end of June, this will include another two million doses.
“With the completed vaccines, we can expect around 3.8 million doses to be ready. Additionally, we will also be importing more doses from China to supplement the existing stock,” said the defence minister.
He noted that Pharmaniaga has more than 300 scientists, comprising pharmacologists, pharmacists, chemists, formulators, researchers and engineers in the manufacturing and information technology fields.