KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 — Due to limited global Covid-19 vaccine supply, a private vaccination programme in Malaysia can probably only start in the second half of the year, Khairy Jamaluddin said.
The vaccine minister also said the government would soon release a framework for private hospitals to purchase vaccines for a parallel private coronavirus inoculation programme, even as he encouraged private health care providers to try to procure their own supply.
“But I can tell you that as someone who’s negotiated these contracts, that the vaccines will be delivered very late,” Khairy told CodeBlue in an exclusive interview last Wednesday.
“So even if they can secure a supply of Moderna vaccines, it will likely only be delivered in the third or fourth quarter. So if you want to wait that long, that’s fine, or if you want to go with the government programme and likely get a Pfizer vaccine, there’s a one in two chance that you get a Pfizer vaccine, then that’s your choice.”
Putrajaya has purchased 32 million doses of the mRNA vaccine by the partnership between US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech to cover 50 per cent of the population, with a potential order of another 12.8 million doses to cover an additional 20 per cent of the population.
The mRNA vaccine by Moderna, a US biotech company, has not been purchased by the government. The portfolio in the public Covid-19 immunisation programme — free for all residents in Malaysia — comprises five vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech and UK’s AstraZeneca-Oxford, Chinese vaccines Sinovac and CanSino, and Russia’s Sputnik V.
The National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) hasn’t approved Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine that has been approved by US, UK, and European regulators. Malaysia has only approved the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac shots so far.
When asked if some Malaysians are not registering for Covid-19 vaccination yet because they want to choose and pay for their preferred vaccine, Khairy said he suspected that much of the delivery for the private market in Malaysia could only take place as early as July, or late in the third or fourth quarter of the year, due to restricted global supply.
“So I think we want to be as inclusive as possible and also to accommodate people who do want to pay for it, but the assumption right now is that you pay for it, you get it earlier. I’m saying that you pay for it, you might not get it earlier because supplies are very, very constrained.”Khairy Jamaluddin, Vaccine Minister
Unicef announced last Thursday a delay this month and April of deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines produced by India’s Serum Institute to lower-income economies participating in the global COVAX Covid-19 vaccine access programme, due to a new wave of coronavirus infections in India. (Malaysia’s COVAX vaccine supply is manufactured in South Korea).
Moderna said in a statement last February 16 that short-term delays recently delayed the release of some doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to the US government, but expected to resolve these delays in the near term without impacting monthly delivery targets.
Khairy also expressed concern with vaccine inequity if a private rollout is implemented too early, before widespread access to the national Covid-19 immunisation programme. The second phase of the public vaccine rollout — which will prioritise frontline workers in key economic sectors and even the general public who have already registered for vaccination, alongside vulnerable groups — is due to start next month.
“I think as we enter Phase Two and Three and more vaccines are available freely through the government programme, then the issue of vaccine equity becomes less and as I indicated earlier, the private market can start to operate then, as long as people have decent access to the public programme, which is free. Not before then because I think that will raise a lot of issues as far as vaccine equity is concerned.”
The Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) has repeatedly called for a parallel private Covid-19 immunisation programme, with vaccines independently procured by the private sector, to expedite the country’s vaccination rate.
The law does not prohibit any private party from selling pharmaceutical products approved by NPRA.