Malaysia to explore production of its own vaccines

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s path to further develop its own vaccines would lead to lesser dependence on other countries, say experts.

“With our knowledge, technology and equipment, we can explore the production of vaccines for flu, meningococcal and human papillomavirus, and many others,” said Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar.

“We will be able to cut down the cost of vaccines and become self-sufficient for future outbreaks,” he said.

On Jan 30, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed involving the National Institutes of Biotechnology Malaysia (NIBM), the Malaysia Genome and Vaccine Institute (MGVI), MVP Healthcare Sdn Bhd and Pfizer Malaysia Sdn Bhd with the objective of exploring the potential of joint projects for the development of a local vaccine ecosystem.

In an interview, Dr Zainal Ariffin described the MOU as a good initiative.

He also urged the government and NGOs to strengthen their immunisation campaigns as part of efforts to curb diseases.

National Cancer Society Malaysia managing director Dr M. Muralitharan said that the healthcare system would benefit if Malaysia could manufacture its own vaccines.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, he said Malaysia did not possess the tools to manufacture vaccines and was thus dependent on vaccines from other countries.

“It is important to have the tools to ensure we have vaccine security,” he said.

He said these latest steps taken by the government had come about after several attempts to do so in the past did not materialise.

“We hope it will take off and move on to the next step of clinical testing,” he said, noting that it would take years to verify the side effects and efficiency.

Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia honorary secretary Dr Shanmuganathan Ganeson said Malaysia should not have a problem in producing its own vaccines but it was more about cost effectiveness due to the country’s small population.“It will be a lot cheaper if we can produce our own.

“With its availability, there will be vaccine security.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, he said Malaysia was subjected to supply and demand of vaccines and that prices could be expensive.

Dr Shanmuganathan also stressed on educating the public about vaccines “because it can make a difference to ensure acceptability and the medical benefits.”

On Nov 1, 2021, the government gave the mandate to NIBM-MGVI to streamline efforts and cooperation in the field of research and human vaccine development.

Subsequently, two clinical trials of vaccines produced in the country through MGVI were being conducted by the Science, Technology and Innovative Ministry.

These were the head and neck cancer vaccine and the cholera vaccine.

The Institute of Medical Research is also in collaboration with Universiti Malaya to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.

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