Mass Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Delayed To July Amid Worsening Epidemic

Khairy Jamaluddin previously projected from June the administration of 160,000 daily Covid-19 vaccine doses with sufficient vaccine supply to match demand.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 — Khairy Jamaluddin today announced that 2.5 million weekly doses of Covid-19 vaccines will be delivered to Malaysia from July onwards, marking a delay in his initial June projection for mass supply.

The vaccine minister, during a virtual press conference on the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) today with Health Minister Dr Adham Baba, said that out of the 2.5 million weekly doses, two million doses will be from Pfizer-BioNTech, while 500,000 doses will be from Sinovac. 

The delay in mass vaccine deliveries to Malaysia comes amid a particularly brutal new wave of the Covid-19 epidemic that has seen rising deaths and full intensive care units in hospitals across various states.

Khairy also said that in this month and June, Sinovac vaccine supply from local pharmaceutical company Pharmaniaga Berhad will also be ramped up, but he did not give specific figures for deliveries.

“So, we will be ramping up. Starting from now, with the Sinovac and then continuous delivery of Pfizer that comes in every week, as well as the AstraZeneca delivery,” Khairy said. 

Khairy also announced that this week, Malaysia will be receiving 197,730 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on May 19, another 44,460 doses on May 20, and 17,550 doses on May 21. 

As for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, Khairy said that Malaysia has only received vaccine doses from the global COVAX facility, but is still waiting for the 6.4 million doses which have been directly procured from AstraZeneca itself. 

“We are not going to add more from AstraZeneca. The bulk of the portfolio will come from Pfizer and the bulk of that will start in July.”

Khairy said the second round of the opt-in AstraZeneca vaccination programme for people aged 60 and above in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Sarawak, and Johor — the hard-hit states by the epidemic — would utilise 1.1 million doses from COVAX, but he did not indicate the vaccine delivery schedule for Malaysia.

Previously in April, the vaccine minister told a panel discussion that from June onwards, the government will be targeting to administer over 160,000 daily vaccine doses to complete the Covid-19 vaccination programme by December this year. Only 10,295 doses were administered nationwide yesterday.

Khairy also projected last month enough coronavirus vaccine doses for nine million people by June to match demand. As of yesterday, nearly 10.2 million people have registered for Covid-19 vaccination, or 42 per cent of the target adult population. 

However, just 1.2 million people have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as of yesterday, or 3.7 per cent of Malaysia’s total population. 

The science, technology, and innovation minister also said that the government is looking at the possibility of an extended dosage interval of the Pfizer vaccine that is usually administered three weeks apart. 

A British study found that the Pfizer vaccine generated more antibody response (three and half times larger) in older people when the second dose was administered 12 weeks after the first dose. 

“We will be looking at the possibility of an extended interval for Pfizer, but that has to go through the expert working group and recommendations has to be made to the Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Committee (JKJAV) chaired by Dr Adham and myself,” Khairy added. 

Pharmaniaga: First Industry-Based Vaccination Centre 

According to JKJAV chairman Khairy, Pharmaniaga, which has been assigned the fill-and-finish process for the Sinovac vaccine, has been given approval to run their own vaccination programme for their workers. 

“Pharmaniaga has bought their own vaccines to be given to their factory workers. CITF (Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force) has given approval because this is a vaccine factory and I don’t want Pharmaniaga to have an outbreak and the vaccine factory has to be closed.”

Khairy, however, said that vaccination centres have not been opened to other industries yet and that Pharmaniaga’s vaccination centre is a pilot programme for industrial-based vaccination centres. 

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