Rural Areas May Get Fridge Temperature Covid-19 Vaccines: Khairy

By Ashswita Ravindran |

The government’s Covid-19 Vaccine Supplies Access Guarantee Special Committee will table a national vaccination programme to Cabinet early January 2021.

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PUTRAJAYA, Dec 23 — Covid-19 vaccines with normal fridge temperature storage, such as AstraZeneca’s shot, may be deployed in rural areas in Malaysia, Khairy Jamaluddin said today.

The science, technology, and innovation minister said that the government is currently planning which vaccines should be used in which area according to logistics, even as the first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines to Malaysia, expected in February 2021, will be the Pfizer-BioNTech shot that requires storage at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

The first shipments of the Covid-19 vaccine by UK pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford University, procured under the global COVAX facility, are expected to arrive in Malaysia between March and June, while the first orders of shots procured directly from AstraZeneca will be delivered in April or May.

“If the vaccine can be stored at normal fridge temperature, then it will be easier for us to take it to the last mile, for instance in the interior areas, things like that,” Khairy told a press conference here today on the government’s Covid-19 vaccination strategy at Putrajaya.

“What we want to do under the committee is to map out the indicative delivery schedule with our delivery capability.

“If we map out, for instance, how many doses we will get out in March, April, May, June and July, we will work out, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will work out where these vaccines will be sent,” added the co-chairperson of the government’s Covid-19 Vaccine Supplies Access Guarantee Special Committee (JKJAV).

Khairy also said JKJAV, which he co-chairs with Health Minister Dr Adham Baba, is preparing a national vaccination programme that will be tabled to the Cabinet in early January 2021, including details such as which hospitals will be selected as vaccination sites, how Malaysians can register voluntarily for coronavirus vaccines, the vaccination strategy for migrant workers and expatriates, vaccine storage and distribution, among others.

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii had previously raised his concerns on how Pfizer’s ultra-cold vaccine could be distributed in rural areas without proper facilities to store the shots.

Malaysia has managed to procure Covid-19 vaccines for 82.8 per cent of the population: 10 per cent from the COVAX facility in which Malaysia has chosen the AstraZeneca vaccine, 20 per cent from Pfizer (with options for another 20 per cent coverage), 10 per cent from direct procurement with AstraZeneca, 21.9 per cent from Sinovac, 10.9 per cent from CanSinoBIO, and 10 per cent with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

Only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires storage at ultra-cold temperatures, while the rest can be stored at normal fridge temperature of between two and eight degrees Celsius. A million doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is expected to be delivered to Malaysia in February next year.

Khairy said Malaysia’s agreement with Pfizer, whose price he said he was “happy” with, included the cost of transportation to multiple points of immunisation.

“Whether we end up utilising the multiple points of immunisation or just one single point, and then we distribute it via local distributors is something that we’re still discussing, especially at the Ministry of Health.”

Khairy also added that the Malaysia government is now exploring their options for vaccine delivery partners.

“We are looking for options for the last mile. Obviously, the last mile doesn’t mean straight to your house, that’s a bit difficult, but we will be looking at government health clinics, we will be looking at district medical facilities.”

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