KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — Children below 12 in Malaysia will not receive a Covid-19 vaccine next year as most candidate vaccines have not been tested on them yet, Khairy Jamaluddin said today.
“Most of the vaccines have not been tested on children below the age of 12 yet, so definitely they will not be getting the vaccine next year,” the science, technology and innovation minister said while winding up the Budget 2021 debate at the Dewan Rakyat today.
According to Khairy who co-chairs the Covid-19 Vaccine Supplies Access Guarantee Special Committee (JKJAV), the RM3 billion allocated under Budget 2021 to purchase Covid-19 vaccines is based on an estimation used to purchase vaccines for 70 per cent of the population in order to achieve herd immunity, using an average price of the Covid-19 vaccines being developed.
Last month, Pfizer announced that it has received the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to enroll children as young as the age of 12 in its Covid-19 vaccine trial, NPR reported.
Moderna also recently said that it hopes to roll out its experimental Covid-19 vaccine for children by mid-next year, although so far, the US pharmaceutical company has not started testing on children yet. Chinese vaccine developer Sinovac Biotech also announced that it is planning to widen its Covid-19 vaccine study to 552 healthy participants aged between three and 17.
Moreover, Khairy said today that the Malaysian government will not compromise in terms of safety of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“We will ensure all the early information and interim information related to safety, safety data we will obtain to ensure that no one in Malaysia becomes lab rats,” Khairy said.
“I predict according to our plan, (in the) first quarter of next year, we will get our first acquisition and an announcement will be made soon by the Prime Minister.”
The Umno lawmaker also mentioned that Malaysia, like every other country, will not just purchase a vaccine from one specific pharmaceutical company, but will be purchasing from various companies and suppliers.
The vaccine will then be allocated to individual age groups according to the effectiveness of that particular vaccine towards that age group.
“[If] we find the effectiveness and safety for that one vaccine is better towards senior citizens, then we will fix that vaccine specifically for senior citizens,” the Rembau MP said.
Khairy also said that a special communication committee has been formed under the Covid-19 Vaccine Supplies Access Guarantee Special Committee to come up with a communication strategy to communicate with the public on the Covid-19 vaccine, including for people who are hesitant about vaccines. The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) is also part of the committee.
“Besides government agencies, the communication also involves the community groups like non-governmental organisations (NGOs), religious leaders, community leaders, as well as the private sector to ensure clear information related to this vaccine can be delivered effectively to each target group,” Khairy said.
According to the minister, an independent Covid-19 vaccine committee has also been formed. This independent committee is led by an epidemiologist, Dr Awang Bulgiba from University Malaya, with members from specialties like virology, molecular immunology, infectious diseases, occupational health, health economics, pharma economics, and applied ethics to ensure the decision of the procurement of a vaccine is not just made by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) or the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Currently, Khairy said Malaysia does not have the full facility to develop a vaccine for humans. However, the National Science Council has agreed to develop a roadmap for vaccine development to make Malaysia a human vaccine producer in the next 10 years. The roadmap is predicted to be completed in the second quarter of 2021.
MOSTI has also come up with a new funding scheme — MOSTI Combating Covid-19 fund (MCCOF) — to encourage more research and development to overcome and control the Covid-19 pandemic.
“MOSTI has granted one project through this fund totalling RM2.1 million to University Malaya for the development of Covid-19 vaccine,” the Rembau MP said.
“MOSTI hopes the MCCOF initiative will become a platform for the creation of local vaccines, which in turn can reduce the dependence of vaccine supply from abroad.”