Malaysia can handle Covid-19 cold-chain vaccines, says WHO

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PETALING JAYA: The World Health Organization (WHO) has allayed concerns that Malaysia may struggle to distribute vaccines that require sub-zero storage and transport, as the country has proven capable of it in the past.

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Speaking at the “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights” virtual forum, head of mission and WHO representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore Dr Lo Ying-Ru said the country’s ability to manage the Sabah polio outbreak earlier this year showed that the logistical capability is in place to maintain cold-chain transport and storage.

“The oral polio vaccine that was donated from the WHO stockpile for the children in Sabah required storage at -80 degrees, so we know that Malaysia has the capacity to deliver the vaccine at the storage facility and administer it,” she said.

Of the Covid-19 vaccines that have released preliminary data, vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna both require maintaining extremely cold temperatures to remain effective, -70°C and -20°C respectively, which must be maintained during transport and storage.

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“During the unfortunate polio outbreak, we were able to bring in vaccines at -80°C. We received them at the health ministry’s designated warehouse and they were distributed to Sabah, so we know it works. Malaysia can do it,” said Lo.

She said the ability to distribute Covid-19 vaccines in an equitable manner will be key to ensuring local and global efforts to curb the spread of the virus are not jeopardised.

This echoed statements made by Foreign Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein in his opening address at the forum, who said that “universal access to an affordable, accessible and equitable vaccine is crucial”.

“Vaccination is a human right that must be respected, protected and fulfilled,” he said.

The forum was held in recognition of Human Rights Day 2020, organised jointly by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, foreign affairs ministry, Legal Affairs Division of the Prime Minister’s Department and United Nations in Malaysia. – FMT

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