Khairy: We must be 'nimble and flexible' to adjust Covid-19 vaccine portfolio


PETALING JAYA: Malaysia must be “nimble and flexible” enough to re-adjust its vaccine portfolio should there be a need to do so, says Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said rebalancing the country’s vaccine portfolio may occur, as more clinical data is announced and published in due time.

“This means that what has already been announced may change in the future.

“We may add more of a particular vaccine and even not exercise some of the other agreements.

“This will be based on clinical data, commercial terms and availability,” he said in a statement on Thursday (Jan 14).

He also said the government has mapped out the vaccination priority list, with frontliners, senior citizens and people with chronic illnesses getting vaccinated first.

As such, he advised young, healthy Malaysians to manage expectations of when they would receive the vaccine.

“If you are a healthy adult under 60 and not a frontline worker, it is safe to assume that your turn will come by Q3 (of 2021), or after.

“This is the same for many other countries. It is important to manage our expectations.

"While we will try our best to get as many people vaccinated within one year, we want to be prudent in our timeline.

“In fact, Malaysia’s vaccination plan will span 18 months,” he said.

He added that Singapore and Indonesia were able to roll out their vaccines earlier because Singapore had a larger budget for a smaller population, while Indonesia had conducted phase three clinical trials for Sinovac.

“Why was Malaysia not a site for clinical trials for Sinovac? Sinovac trials started last year and when we offered Malaysia as a trial site, the number of positive cases were low. So was the rate of infectivity.

“Hence, Sinovac declined to include Malaysia in its phase three trial programme. Clinical trials need high infectivity rates to be successful,” he said.

Japan, he added, placed the order for the vaccine in July last year, and will receive the vaccine in February, which is the same time as Malaysia.

He said the vaccine does not act as a silver bullet, and that until the country can achieve herd immunity, habits such as wearing face masks, maintaining physical distancing and good personal hygiene must continue.

The Vaccine Selection Technical Working Group (TWG), he added, will regularly update him on clinical data of the vaccines, while the commercial team will advise him on negotiations on price and availability of the vaccines.

“At all times, we will ensure the vaccines we get are safe and efficacious, and Malaysia’s financial interests are protected,” he said.

Khairy, who is also the co-chair of the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee, also addressed concerns surrounding Sinovac’s efficacy rate from its trial in Brazil.

“When negotiating, we have always insisted that the vaccines must be approved and registered by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), before the agreement is operationalised.

“That is why refundable deposits and payment clawbacks are some of the conditions that we have included into the negotiations.

“In the Sinovac case, our TWG chaired by Dr Kalairasu Peariasamy, who is Institute of Clinical Research director, is analysing the announcement and will subsequently advise me on the way forward,” he said.

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Malaysia , vaccine , Khairy Jamaluddin , Covid-19

   

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