Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin declared on 11th January 2021, during the announcement of the Malaysian Movement Control Order (MCO), that the country is scheduled to receive the Pfizer vaccine in the first step by the end of February.
The Prime Minister said the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) of the Ministry of Health had approved the registration of the vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.
COVID-19 National Vaccination Plan
“As an early preparation to ensure the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine will go smoothly once the supply has been procured, the Health Ministry has developed the COVID-19 national vaccination plan,” he said.
Muhyiddin said that some 60 to 70% or between 20 and 23 million of the Malaysian population should be vaccinated in order for Malaysia to achieve herd immunity.
“At the moment, the government has signed an early agreement with the Covax facility provider Pfizer and AstraZeneca, for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine, and to guarantee that the vaccine supply would reach a total of 40% of the population,” he added.
At the same time, the government is now in the final step of negotiations with Sinovac, another Chinese manufacturer, CanSino Biologics, Russian Gamaleya Institute, the manufacturer of the Sputnik V vaccine to boost the availability of vaccines to 80% of the population or 26.5 million individuals, he said.
COVID-19 Clinical Trials in Malaysia
Phase three of the COVID-19 clinical trials would begin on 21st January 2021 in nine hospitals.
“The first clinical trial study done in Malaysia is expected to involve 3,000 volunteers and Malaysia will become the first country outside China for the inactivated COVID-19 vaccine made by the Institute of the Medical Biology Chinese Academy of Medical Services, China (Imbcams),” he said.
He added that all legal requirements, including the ethics clearance of the Medical Evaluation and Ethics Committee (MREC) and, lastly, the NPRA Clinical Trial Import License, had been obtained on 8th January 2021.
Special Committee on COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee (JKJAV)
Earlier, on 8th January 2021, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba announced that Malaysia wants to fine tune the procurement of vaccines through the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee (JKJAV) currently working on the COVID-19 National Vaccination Programme.
The JKJAV meetings were chaired jointly by the Minister for Research, Technology and Innovation, Khairy Jamaluddin, on 7th January 2021.
Malaysia’s Pharmaniaga Bhd Ties A Deal with China’s Sinovac
On 12th January 2021, Malaysia Pharmaniaga Bhd announced that it had signed an agreement with China’s Sinovac to buy ready-to-fill COVID-19 vaccines and later to produce the vaccine domestically.
Pharmaniaga claimed in its submission to the stock exchange that the company would carry out the fill-and-finish phase of the vaccine in Malaysia and would subsequently enter into local production under a licence from Sinovac for its technology and know-how.
“This will also help Pharmaniaga in long-term partnerships, including technology transfer to grow the sector in Malaysia,” said the firm.
Only Proceed after Observing Trial Data of Sinovac’s Vaccine
On 13th January 2021, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that Malaysia would only go ahead with the purchasing of China’s Sinovac Biotech vaccine if it met the safety and efficacy requirements of local regulators.
Brazil raised questions about the Sinovac vaccine when clinical trials showed that it was just 50.4% successful in avoiding symptomatic infections. The results were published only as Indonesia initiated one of the largest coronavirus vaccination programmes in the world.
Malaysia will first study Sinovac’s clinical evidence before it decides, said Minister of Research, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin on Twitter.
“If we’re not satisfied with safety and efficacy, we’re not going to go through the procurement process,” Khairy said.
February Arrival Does Not Mean the Whole Nation Gets Vaccinated
In an update through his website on 14th January 2021, Khairy explained “No country receives their entire order in one shot. The delivery is staggered based on a quarterly schedule. For our Pfizer order we will receive 1 million doses in Q1 2021, 1.7 million doses in Q2, 5.8 million doses in Q3 and 4.3 million doses in Q4. The delivery of our orders with other manufacturers will also be staggered. This is the reality of global manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccines and demand outstripping supply.”
He added that “A February delivery schedule does not mean everyone is vaccinated in February. In fact, Malaysia’s vaccination plan will span 18 months.”