KJ: Vaccinations for prioritised communities on track for Feb 2021

PETALING JAYA: Front line workers, senior citizens and people with chronic illnesses will be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccinations, the first delivery of which is on track to be received before the end of February 2021, says Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (pic).

"For our Pfizer order we will receive 1 million doses in Q1 2021, 1.7 million doses in Q2, 5.8 million doses in Q3 and 4.3 million doses in Q4. The delivery of our orders with other manufacturers will also be staggered," he wrote in his blog, explaining that the delivery is staggered based on a quarterly schedule.

Based on this delivery schedule, the vaccination priority list has been mapped out, with the first objective being to protect those who are most vulnerable.

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

"If you are a healthy adult under 60 and not a front line worker, it is safe to assume that your turn will come by Q3 (of 2021) or later," he said.

"This is the same for many other countries. It is important to manage our expectations. While we 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 over 18 months," he said.

Khairy stressed that the vaccine is not a panacea and until the country can achieve herd immunity, habits such as wearing face masks, maintaining physical distancing and good personal hygiene must continue.

He said Singapore and Indonesia were able to roll out their vaccination programmes earlier because the island state has 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? The Sinovac trials started last year and when we offered Malaysia as a trial site, the number of positive cases was 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 pointed out, ordered its vaccine in July last year and will only get it in February, the same time as Malaysia.

Khairy, who is also the co-chair of the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee, said Malaysia must be "nimble and flexible" enough to re-adjust its vaccine portfolio should there be a need to do so.

He said rebalancing the country's vaccine portfolio may occur as more clinical data is announced and published.

"This means 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.

The Vaccine Selection Technical Working Group (TWG), he said, will regularly update him on clinical data on 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 also addressed concerns surrounding Sinovac's efficacy rate from its trial in Brazil.

"When negotiating, we have always insisted that 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 built into the negotiations.

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

* The headline has been amended to reflect the accurate timeline regarding the Covid-19 vaccination schedule in Malaysia. The previous erroneous heading had also appeared in print on Friday, January 15, 2021 and should reflect this corrected version. Due to the seriousness of the issue discussed in the article, the error is regretted.

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