KUALA LUMPUR: Initial delays in the procurement of vaccines under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme were caused by unnecessary red tape by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), claims Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail (PH-Kulim Bandar Bharu).
Saifuddin said Malaysia missed out on a golden opportunity to procure vaccines last year, while pointing out first-world countries such as Singapore and the United States had approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as early as last December.
"The NPRA previously said they require 90 to 120 days, and it was approved in February this year. In December last year, Singapore became the first country in Asia to procure vaccines. We were slow," he said during his turn to raise points after the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry briefed MPs in the House about the vaccination programme.
Saifuddin said the delay in procuring vaccines have led to spikes in Covid-19 cases, adding that the government then adopted a "wait-and-see" attitude.
"When there is fierce competition and we don't have strong bargaining power, other countries made procurement commitments, and they were negotiating for the earliest possible delivery dates to save lives.
"But here, we said wait for the NPRA. That is the bottleneck," he said.
Meanwhile, Saifuddin stressed the importance of the whole-of-society approach taken by the government, where the views of stakeholders were taken into account in the country's battle against Covid-19.
"That means the age where the government knows everything has ended. To face this pandemic, engagement with every stakeholder is vital.
"We are all vulnerable. Let us work together," he said.
The current Parliament sitting will end next Monday (Aug 2).