PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is using a multi-pronged approach in the race to procure a vaccine for Covid-19 but it also wants to ensure it does not get into lopsided agreements while doing so, says Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
Khairy said Malaysia is still negotiating for the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) allocation plan co-led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as there are some concerns.
“In my discussion with Covax, I think its policy is not to shut the door on any country so we are still in the process of negotiation and discussion, but we have some concerns.
“I have been discussing with the Ministry of Finance, Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Health Ministry, directly with (Health director-general) Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah as well about joining the Covax facility.
“I have presented it to the Prime Minister twice. It’s something that we are still discussing with Covax, ” he said in a Facebook live session with The Star yesterday.
Khairy said among the concerns is cost, especially on upfront payments, as well as the cost of the vaccine.
Citing an example of the options under Covax, which are either committed purchase or optional purchase, Khairy said the down payment for the latter plan to immunise just 10% of the country’s population could go up to RM90mil.
As for the committed purchase, there would be a ceiling price of US$20 (RM83) per vaccine or dose.
“So you’re talking about quite a big commitment here so cost is obviously an issue.
“We have seen pricing that has come out of pharmaceutical companies that are more competitive for instance than the price structure that has been proposed through Covax.
“So that is why we are still discussing because we want to ensure the agreement is not lopsided, ” he said.
Another concern with Covax is that the negotiations with pharmaceutical companies are entirely done by the former and not the representatives of the countries participating.
Other concerns include tax payments, indemnities, issues regarding transportation cost, and liability.
“We have been looking at the implications of these concerns very closely in the last two weeks or so, ” said Khairy.
Being categorised as a middle to high-income nation, Malaysia, under Covax, does not stand to receive any subsidy or assistance, making the country a fully self-paying nation.
Khairy said the government has signed non-disclosure agreements with many pharmaceutical companies as well as countries on a government-to-government level to see if the supply of vaccines can be secured once they are approved later.
“I think it’s important that we have multiple lines of negotiations right now.
“My assurance to the Malaysian public is we are looking at this seriously, we don’t want to be left out, we want to make sure once the vaccination is approved and available that we will be there and get our initial allocation, at least for the most vulnerable groups so that we can deploy the vaccine first but at the same time we want to ensure any agreement is not lopsided, is fair and the price is reasonable for procurement, ” he said.
Khairy said Malaysia’s Health Ministry has very high standards when it comes to safety and efficacy of the vaccine, thus the government would not want to rush into an agreement unnecessarily.
“But that doesn’t mean we are not doing anything or that we will be at the back of the queue when everyone around the world will get vaccinated and Malaysians won’t be.
“We are still discussing and ensuring that Malaysia will get a safe and effective vaccine, ” he added.
On Sept 19, Khairy announced that Malaysia will be joining Covax and that the government is currently discussing the terms of Malaysia’s participation together with the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (Gavi), which is operating Covax.