PETALING JAYA: The Johnson & Johnson’s single dose vaccine may be too little and too late for Malaysia, and this is a concern currently being addressed by the government with the manufacturer, says Khairy Jamaluddin.
The Science, Technology and Innovation Minister said the government is interested in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it is a single dose that is approved by the USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has shown good efficacy against various Covid-19 variants, including the South African strain.
“We are quite happy with the option, if we can get it. I think there are a lot of concerns on our part. First is the number of doses that are on offer from Johnson & Johnson.They are not offering us that many and that’s quite disappointing.
“Secondly, the schedule of delivery is quite late. It’s towards the end of the year.
“We have raised this with Johnson & Johnson as a concern, that they are prioritising the rich countries and we get the back-end of it this year, and that the doses on offer are not that much – just slightly above two million doses, ” Khairy told The Star in a virtual interview recently.
The government is still in talks with the vaccine manufacturer to increase the number of doses and to speed up the delivery date from either the third or fourth quarter of the year to the second quarter, or even the earlier part of the third quarter.
“In terms of cost, Johnson & Johnson is the most competitively priced vaccine, ” said Khairy.
At the time of the interview, the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) has only approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine while Malaysia has agreements with four other vaccine manufacturers: Sinovac from China, Gamaleya (Sputnik V) from Russia, AstraZeneca (United Kingdom) and the single dose vaccine CamSinoBIO (China) which has yet to be assessed by NPRA.
In a related development on Tuesday, the Health Ministry granted conditional approval for AstraZeneca’s “Solution for Injection” vaccine as well as the “CoronaVac Suspension for Injection” by Sinovac.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the conditional registration requires the holding companies to submit analysis of the latest data by rolling submission, which will be evaluated by NPRA.
Malaysia received the first batch of China’s CoronaVac vaccine, developed by Sinovac Life Sciences Co Ltd, last Saturday. It is being stored at the Pharmaniaga facility, where it will be processed into 300,000 doses.
The vaccine from the plant in Beijing arrived in bulk totalling 200 litres and was later transported to the Pharmaniaga plant in Taman Perindustrian Puchong.
Khairy, who has also been actively engaging with many via social media, said currently, there are no plans to take punitive action against those who are anti-vaccine but reminded them that their “messages” would be monitored.
The Cabinet, he added, had also agreed to an emergency ordinance related to fake or false news against vaccines.
“There is an emergency ordinance coming up, Saifuddin will be announcing it. The Cabinet has discussed it but let him announce it, ” he said, referring to Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.