PETALING JAYA: The Covid-19 vaccine currently in development in Malaysia is also being designed as a booster shot, says Institute for Medical Research (IMR) director Dr Tahir Aris. “Those who are fully vaccinated may need booster shots to stay protected, and they may even need it yearly.
“Such a move is important to continue our defence against the coronavirus. Malaysia should not rely wholly on imported vaccine supplies,” said Dr Tahir, who gave Sunday Star a tour of the IMR laboratory in Setia Alam.
He said the vaccine also took into account variants of concern such as the highly infectious Delta strain.
“We are hoping this vaccine will be effective against these emerging variants,” he added.
He said the project’s progress had been positive and the inactivated vaccine would undergo pre-clinical trials involving animals next month at the Veterinary Research Institute facility in Ipoh, Perak.
“The tests will take around six months before we can move forward with clinical trials involving humans next year.
“As such, we hope that the vaccine will be ready in 2024,” he added.
IMR, which is under the Health Ministry, is currently working on two types of Covid-19 vaccines: one using mRNA technology and the other using the inactivated vaccine approach.
IMR is working with experts from Universiti Putra Malaysia and the Veterinary Research Institute, which is under the Veterinary Services Department.
Whether or not the vaccine will require one or two doses will only be known in the later stages of its development.
Dr Tahir said he hoped Malaysia’s Covid-19 vaccines would match the quality of those produced overseas.
“The initiative to develop the Covid-19 vaccine goes beyond the current pandemic, as it will prepare Malaysia in case of future outbreaks.
“We also need to develop young researchers in this field for the benefit of the nation,” he added.
It was reported that a budget of RM3.1mil was approved for the development of Covid-19 vaccines for laboratory and animal studies only.
Extra funding will have to be applied for to fund the pre-clinical and clinical studies.