Khairy wants procurement to help local firms

Latest updates: Khairy (left) and his deputy Ahmad Amzad Hashim at a press conference in Putrajaya. — SAMUEL ONG/The Star

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia wants its procurement of Covid-19 vaccines to benefit local pharmaceutical companies, says Khairy Jamaluddin.

“We want to explore how procurement that involves very high cost can also help develop the local pharmaceutical industry.

“It is important to use the procurement of the vaccines to add value to local companies, ” he said when briefing the media on the latest updates regarding the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

Khairy said the government, which is in the final process of negotiations with three companies – Sinovac and CanSinoBIO from China as well as Gamaleya from Russia – is looking at how these companies could value add to the development of vaccines in Malaysia, including the fill-finish process.

He explained that the process of filling vials with vaccine and packaging for distribution was an important process before the country could have the capacity to wholly develop vaccines.

“We are also looking at companies which are ready to cooperate with us on research and development, sharing and transfer of technology and those interested to invest here not just to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines, but also other vaccines in the future, ” he said.

He added that Sinovac would work with local pharmaceutical companies, where the vaccines to be sent in bulk would undergo the fill-finish process here.

To a question, Khairy said the government had made an informed decision to sign an advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca despite reports that the United States Food and Drug Administration had yet to approve the vaccine for emergency use.

“We waited quite a while and negotiated for a reasonable price. But we will still wait for the clinical data, ” he said.

Malaysia is purchasing 6.4 million doses of vaccine from AstraZeneca and another 6.4 million doses from the British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company via Covax.

On another matter, Khairy said Malaysia’s vaccine order from Pfizer would be one that has been “tweaked” if the existing one is found not to be effective on the new mutation of the virus discovered in the United Kingdom.

He said Pfizer was monitoring the efficacy of its vaccine on the new mutation and would need six weeks to tweak it if needed.

“We will get that (tweaked) vaccine. I will insist on this. We have not spoken to them, but I will raise the matter with Pfizer to ensure that whatever orders Malaysia has put in, we will get the vaccine that can address the variant that is most infectious, ” he added.

Malaysia has secured 12.8 million doses of vaccine from Pfizer which can cover 6.4 million people.

The United Kingdom recently identified a new, potentially more contagious coronavirus variant linked to a surge in cases in the country.

Currently labelled as VUI-202012/01 (virus under investigation in December 2020), the variant was first detected in the United Kingdom in September.

Khairy said the vaccine gifted to Malaysia by the United Arab Emirates would be subjected to regulatory approval by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency.

“We have not received anything official on this but the position of the government is that even if it is a form of gift bestowed by the UAE, it will have to get approval from the NPRA (National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency), ” he said.

According to reports, Abu Dhabi has donated 500,000 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to Malaysia.

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