PUTRAJAYA, Dec 23 — The government is looking at a just-in-time rollout of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine to avoid lengthy storage of the shots that must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, Khairy Jamaluddin said today.
The minister of science, technology, and innovation said that once a million doses of the coronavirus vaccine by US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, arrive in Malaysia in February 2021, the government hopes to immunise people as soon as possible.
“We don’t want to keep the vaccine for long,” Khairy told a press conference here today on the government’s Covid-19 vaccination strategy.
“We want the vaccine to arrive and we roll it out immediately and that is why I’m in close communication with Tan Sri (Health) director-general to make sure the timing is right and that we are happy with the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) timing, we are happy with public’s expectations, I negotiate with Pfizer, and it comes.
“Don’t want to keep it for long [so] we can start the vaccination process,” Khairy stressed.
According to Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the NPRA will take around 90 to 120 working days to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in Malaysia.
As American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer had only sent their dossier containing vaccine clinical data to NPRA on December 15, hence the earliest approval dates — based on 90 to 120 working days, as opposed to calendar days — are between April 26 and June 14.
“However, in the interest of public emergency, NPRA is committed to providing a comprehensive review that is well within the stipulated timeline or earlier, which also includes correspondence to the company,” Dr Noor Hisham said in a statement yesterday.
Pfizer’s two-dose messenger-RNA (mRNA) vaccine has a storage temperature of minus 70 degrees’ Celsius below, as if the vaccine is not kept at an extremely cold temperature, the mRNA can break down, making the vaccine unusable.
In an ultra-low temperature freezer, it will have a shelf life of up to six months. Meanwhile, it can be stored up to five days at normal fridge temperature of two to eight degrees’ Celsius.
Khairy said today that the government is still in discussion on which freezers can be deployed in order to store the vaccine.
“Some freezers are in use and some are free, so we are doing stock check right now of the freezers that can be deployed to store the Pfizer vaccines. But if the university freezers are not available, we are also checking with MOH (Ministry of Health) to see the cold chain availability in MOH, otherwise of course we have to procure,” Khairy, who is also the co-chairperson of of the Covid-19 Vaccine Supplies Access Guarantee Special Committee (JKJAV), said.
“We don’t see that it will be an issue because not all 12 million doses will arrive at the same time, it’s staggered so we will make sure that hospitals that MOH will identify [as] the primary vaccination centres for the Pfizer vaccine, the freezers will be there.”
Malaysia has procured 12.8 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer that will be used to immunise 20 per cent of the population. The vaccine will be delivered to Malaysia in batches — one million doses in the first quarter, 1.7 million doses in the second quarter, 5.8 million doses in the third quarter, and 4.3 million doses in the fourth quarter.
According to Khairy, Pfizer will be shipping the first batch of one million doses to Malaysia in February next year.