KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 — Malaysia has not yet committed to joining a global Covid-19 vaccine allocation plan, co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO), that has been signed up by 76 countries so far.
Seth Berkley, head of the GAVI international vaccine alliance based in Switzerland and the United States, told Reuters that the plan known as COVAX — which aims to help purchase and fairly distribute coronavirus vaccines — currently has commitments from Japan, Germany, and Norway, among 76 upper middle income and high income nations, to procure Covid-19 vaccines through the facility for their populations.
However, Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said Malaysia has yet to submit its intent to join COVAX, pending more information on the international plan whose coordinators have set a September 18 deadline for participating countries to make binding commitments.
“The currently available information and data about the COVAX facility are still unclear, including the implementation of the COVAX facility, the lack of sharing of clear clinical data on the vaccine that will be developed by manufacturers, the governance structure of the COVAX facility that has yet to be finalised, as well as the roles and functions of the participating countries in making decisions and policies with regards to the COVAX facility, among others,” Dr Adham told CodeBlue today.
“In line with that, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will continue to monitor current developments about the development of Covid-19 vaccines by manufacturers or manufacturing countries. Besides that, for now, MOH will continue to monitor the latest information and data on this COVAX facility before making any decision to join the COVAX facility.”
Reuters reported that COVAX coordinators are currently in talks with China that has yet to sign an agreement to join the vaccine access plan, but Beijing has reportedly given a “positive signal”.
The United States reportedly said Tuesday that it would not join COVAX because of the Trump administration’s objection to WHO involvement.
According to Reuters, COVAX — which is co-led by GAVI, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) — aims to discourage governments from hoarding coronavirus vaccines and to focus first on vaccinating the most high-risk people in each country.
GAVI chief executive Berkley was quoted saying that rich nations that join COVAX will purchase the Covid-19 vaccine from their national budgets, and will partner with 92 poorer countries supported through voluntary donations to the plan to ensure equitable delivery of the vaccines.
Participating wealthy nations are also free to procure coronavirus vaccines through bilateral deals or other plans. Malaysia is classified by the World Bank as an upper middle income country.
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told the Dewan Rakyat last July that Malaysia was currently discussing with China on Covid-19 vaccine development. He also claimed Pharmaniaga Bhd and Duopharma Biotech Bhd have the capacity to conduct fill-finish processing for the vaccine, but stressed that the two local pharmaceutical companies have yet to be appointed by the government to undertake this.
Reuters reported that COVAX plans to procure and deliver two billion doses of approved Covid-19 vaccines by the end of next year, with nine vaccine candidates currently in its portfolio. The WHO describes COVAX as an “invaluable insurance policy” for all nations to secure access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines.