Malaysia may add Johnson & Johnson to its vaccine armoury

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia looks set to add Johnson & Johnson to its lineup of Covid-19 vaccine suppliers, in a boost to the country’s National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the government is in discussions with the US multinational to finalise the procurement of its vaccine.

“The Cabinet has given its approval for the procurement of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, following a recommendation by the Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Special Committee.

“Among the reasons for this decision is that it is a single-dose vaccine and that the clinical information on it has appeared positive so far.

“This is still in the discussion stage. I am made to understand that Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba will be signing the contract with Johnson & Johnson soon.

“After that, the vaccine will be sent to the Health Ministry’s National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) to be evaluated, ” Khairy told a press conference yesterday.

So far, Malaysia has agreed to procure Covid-19 vaccines from five companies: Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, CanSinoBIO, and Sputnik V.

Only Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine has received NPRA approval, while the rest are still under evaluation.

Khairy also said a deal has been made with Pfizer and BioNTech that Malaysia would not miss out on upgraded versions of their vaccine.

“When I negotiated with Pfizer and BioNTech, I ensured that if there was an upgrade based on new variants, our existing contract will cover vaccines that are upgraded or new vaccines from Pfizer.

“This is in light of the emergence of new variants or mutations of the coronavirus, ” he said.

Khairy also said that the government has secured the procurement of low-dead volume syringes to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. These syringes, he added, can extract six doses from one vial, compared to the ordinary syringe that extracts only five doses.

The coordinating minister of the national immunisation plan said the country expects logistical issues to be one of its main challenges.

“We are managing a nationwide campaign that includes making sure that vaccines, especially Pfizer-BioNTech’s, are kept in ultra-cold storage. A lot of thought goes into the logistics, ” said Khairy.

To a question, he said the Health Ministry would be updating the list of people to be advised against taking the vaccine.

“We are still updating based on the data that we continue to get from other parts of the world.

“When we are certain about it, the minister will announce this, ” he said when asked if pregnant women would not be on the list of people who can be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Khairy also said Malaysia could become a regional hub for halal vaccines, after interest shown by investors around the world.

“Many vaccine investors have approached us to position Malaysia as a hub for South-East Asia and other Muslim markets around the world because of our well-respected and stringent halal certifications.

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