KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22 — A member of the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on health, science and innovation has called for updates on the Malaysian government’s procurement and distribution plans for Covid-19 vaccines.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said the bipartisan PSC must be able to scrutinise the government’s handling of the Covid-19 epidemic, which is expected to hit 100,000 total cases in Malaysia by Christmas, including the procurement and distribution of vaccines scheduled to arrive in Malaysia by February 2021.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said earlier today that the first million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be delivered to Malaysia next February.
Dr Yii noted that various parties have questioned the actual cost of the vaccines procured by the Malaysian government, after a Belgian minister accidentally leaked the prices of leading coronavirus vaccines that the European Union (EU) has agreed to pay.
“While in Parliament, the Minister YB Khairy Jamaluddin has made clarifications to some of these questions, but there will still be continuous questions throughout the process and the best platform for the Ministry to provide such accountability and transparency will be to the PSC on Health, Science & Innovation as they are empowered by Parliament to scrutinise the whole process to make sure that it reaches it intended target and minimise risk of corruption, wastage or abuse,” Dr Yii said in a statement.
“With more transparency and accountability, we can then increase public confidence on the vaccine and curb misinformation, confusion and hesitancy which will definitely affect the government’s mass vaccination plans,” the DAP lawmaker added.
Veteran DAP leader Lim Kit Siang has repeatedly questioned the prices of Covid-19 vaccines, including the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, for Malaysia. The EU is paying €12 (RM59.60) per dose for the coronavirus vaccine by a collaboration between US pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc and German biotech company BioNTech.
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin previously told Parliament that Malaysia is paying significantly less than RM100 per dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which includes delivery handled by Pfizer to vaccination sites in the country.
The US is paying US$19.50 (RM79.20) per shot for the first 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, more expensive than the EU. Both the US and EU agreements with Pfizer, unlike Malaysia, do not include delivery to vaccination sites in their countries.
Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib today commended the Malaysian government for negotiating directly with pharmaceutical companies for the Covid-19 vaccines, thus making significant cost savings by eliminating middlemen like tender agents in pharmaceutical procurement. He also estimated that Malaysia was probably paying around RM1.2 billion for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“The PSC is empowered to call up different stakeholders including people from the Ministry, different health care associations, research institutes, private medical fraternities, NGOs and many others to provide their input into our country’s Covid-19 approach,” said Dr Yii.
“One of the major concerns is that based on the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)’s projection, Malaysia is projected to experience a continuous rise in Covid-19 cases until mid-March 2021, hitting over 5,000 infections daily from February 25th.
“If there is no urgent intervention, we may see our health care system being overwhelmed again by April or June.”
The Ministry of Health (MOH) today reported 2,062 new Covid-19 cases, pushing the country’s cumulative total infections to 97,389. Yesterday, 2,018 fresh infections were reported.
Malaysia currently has 17,646 active Covid-19 cases. One new death from Covid-19 was reported today — a 69-year-old foreign man in Labuan, pushing the total fatalities to 439 (or 0.45 per cent of total infections).
A total of 111 Covid-19 patients are in intensive care, including 51 on ventilator support.