KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is in the final stage of discussions with COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers and hopes to obtain and put into use a vaccine by the first quarter of next year, officials said.
Malaysia is in talks with 10 COVID-19 vaccine producers that are in Phase 3 trials, said Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Khairy Jamaluddin on Monday. Eight of those discussions were made through the government and two via the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX), he said.
Some of the discussions are in their final stages, and an official announcement will be made when things are finalised, said Mr Khairy.
“The discussion covers aspects of cooperation in various stages of vaccine development such as R&D, exchange of scientists, fill and finish development (transfer of technology, logistics, cold chain), including the purchase of vaccines (finished products) as a guarantee of access to vaccine supply for the country,” Mr Khairy said.
There are 11 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in the third phase of clinical trials as of Nov 13, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Through Malaysia’s participation in COVAX, the country will be able to access enough COVID-19 vaccine for 10 per cent of its population, said Mr Khairy. The government is working to get another 60 per cent in order to meet the national target for herd immunity, he added.
The government is also working to get vaccine access as early as the first or second quarter of next year, depending on approvals from the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), said Mr Khairy.
Malaysia reported 1,103 new coronavirus cases on Monday, raising its total number of infections to 48,520.
The health ministry also recorded four new deaths, taking the total number of fatalities due to COVID-19 to 313.
Malaysia’s Special Committee on COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Access (JKJAV) has said it will prioritise immunisations into three groups. The first group will include frontliners such as health ministry employees, the police, Malaysian Armed Forces and Immigration Department.
The second group consists of high-risk individuals, such as those with co-morbid medical conditions and seniors citizens, while the third involves other adult population.
Details on the groups being ironed out, with announcements expected to be made during the first quarter of next year.
Separately, Health Minister Dr Adham Baba also said on Monday that Malaysia aims to roll out COVID-19 immunisations by the first quarter of next year.
“As we have been informed, the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech has been claimed to be 90 per cent effective. This is a good and healthy development,” said Dr Adham.
He added that Malaysia has confidence in companies such as Gamaleya Research Institute whose vaccines are undergoing their third phase of clinical trials in providing vaccines to the country, but discussions remain inconclusive on vaccines from China.
“The procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for our country will depend on careful considerations with regard to the quality, safety, implications and registration of these vaccines by the producing countries,” he said during a radio programme on Monday.
He also said that chances of reinfection in patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are low compared to those who have never been infected, said Dr Adham.
The recovery rate has since risen to 73 per cent, compared to 65 per cent two weeks ago – this proves that treatment protocols and regime implemented at the hospitals and health centres in Malaysia are in line with public health safety, he added.
The increase in COVID-19 cases in some states, federal territories and Klang Valley are linked to workplace and construction site clusters where infectivity rates are high, due to human traffic and a lack of adherence to standard operating procedures.
“The rise in cases in Kuala Lumpur shows that we need to tighten actions, compliance, enforcement and monitoring. We have to continue with the preventive and control measures, adhere to the SOP and adapt to the new norms,” said Dr Adham.
“This is the responsibility of all. With regard to the workplace clusters, it is very important for employers and workers to be responsible. Employers have a vital role of ensuring that their staff or workers are always protected.”