KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) today urged local drug regulators to expedite approval of more Covid-19 vaccines, especially those that have been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Opposition coalition pointed out that Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s CanSino coronavirus vaccines are still pending approval, months after their order by the Malaysian government.
“The government is relying on three (National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency) NPRA-approved vaccines: Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinovac. Relying merely on just three vaccines is too few and too risky,” PH’s Covid-19 vaccination committee said in a statement.
“Sputnik V has already been approved by 60 countries worldwide and the NPRA should attempt in getting the necessary data to speed up the approval process. If the two vaccines mentioned are approved, the resulting acceleration of the vaccine rollout would play a major role in fighting the current spike of Covid-19.”
PH also told the government to procure new WHO-approved vaccines like Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, as well as to start negotiations to procure late-stage trial vaccines like Sinopharm and Novavax.
Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told the press yesterday that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine will be left to the private market in Malaysia due to its expensive price, revealing that a local party has come forward to register the mRNA vaccine here.
On Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, the science, technology and innovation minister said the NPRA “is not entirely satisfied” with the data provided by Duopharma Biotech Berhad, the local registration holder in Malaysia.
“At the moment, there are other vaccines that other companies have submitted to NPRA for approval. Some of these vaccines — if they are later approved by NPRA and there’s private sector purchase — then they can go ahead with that,” Khairy said.
PH further urged Putrajaya to liberalise the national Covid-19 vaccination programme to enable state governments and private health care providers to procure their own vaccine supply and inoculate paying customers.
Federal law does not prohibit any company, including those without a health care background, from importing and distributing approved pharmaceutical products in the country, including Covid-19 vaccines.
“This will draw market forces to fill the gap. The federal government would then be enabled to use their limited resources to focus on efforts to vaccinate the rest of the population,” said the Opposition coalition.
“The government must refrain from repeating previous mistakes in vaccination procurement. Malaysia was late in procurement compared to neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Indonesia. Our ‘wait and see’ attitude has led to the failure to control the current spike and has consequently cost us many lives. As grave as our situation may seem, all is not lost.”
Khairy insisted yesterday that the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) is the only coronavirus inoculation scheme that has procured vaccines approved by the NPRA.
He also ordered local pharmaceutical company Pharmaniaga Bhd to prioritise the federal government’s order of 12 million doses of Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine — whether by importing the finished product from China or by filling and finishing the vaccine in its factory here — ahead of orders by state governments.
His statement came amid attempts by the Sarawak and Selangor state governments to procure their own supply of Covid-19 vaccines. Selangor has refused to name the brand of the coronavirus vaccine that it intends to buy 2.5 million doses of.
Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg reportedly said yesterday that the state government would purchase 500,000 doses of Sinovac’s vaccine after getting approval from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. The chief minister did not reveal if Sarawak is getting the filled-and-finished product or finished vaccine from Pharmaniaga imported from China, or from another distributor importing the finished vaccine from China.