Malaysia Orders More Pfizer Vaccines, Total Covers 70% Population

By Boo Su-Lyn | 27 May 2021

Khairy Jamaluddin also says the interval dosage of Pfizer and AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccines may be maintained or shortened respectively in areas with high prevalence of variants of concern.

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 — The Malaysian government has ordered an additional 12.8 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine, bringing the total to 44.8 million doses covering about 70 per cent of the population.

Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said for the month of June, Malaysia is expected to receive 2,223,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, where 444,600 doses will be sent every week for five weeks.

In the third quarter of the year, Malaysia is expected to receive 25,682,670 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.

He also said that local pharmaceutical company Pharmaniaga Bhd, which is the exclusive distributor and also local fill-and-finish manufacturer for Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine — will complete delivery of the entire federal government order of 12 million doses by the end of July, comprising 5,089,800 doses of the local fill-and-finish product and 6,910,200 of the finished vaccine from Sinovac’s manufacturing site in Beijing, China.

Malaysia has already received 1.4 million doses of the finished Sinovac vaccine to date, plus some 300,000 doses of the unfilled vaccine, of which 290,840 doses have been distributed.

On the government’s direct order of AstraZeneca-Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine, Khairy said 610,000 doses are expected to be delivered next month and 410,000 doses in July, depending on the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency’s (NPRA) approval of the manufactured vaccine in Thailand. 

“With all these deliveries, I project a vaccination rate of 150,000 doses administered daily in June. This involves the opening of more vaccination sites (PPV) throughout the country,” Khairy told a virtual press conference today.

Vaccine Dosage Interval Depends On Prevalence Of New Variants

He also said the decision on whether to extend the dosage interval of Pfizer’s vaccine — which is currently set at three weeks according to the developer’s recommendation — would depend on the prevalence of variants of concern like the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India.

A new Public Health England study showed that two doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are 88 per cent and 60 per cent effective respectively against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 variant.

However, both vaccines’ protection against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant is only 33 per cent three weeks after the first dose, lower than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended 50 per cent effectiveness.

Khairy said the government may extend the Pfizer vaccine dosage interval to six weeks in localities with low prevalence of the B.1.617.2 variant, but retain administering the second dose three weeks after the first in areas where the variant is common.

“This is in line with the latest decisions from other countries that look at variants of concern, where one dose doesn’t give effective protection to vaccine recipients from variant B.1.617.2,” he said.

The government is currently retaining the 12-week dosage interval for the AstraZeneca vaccine, though it may be shortened if new variants become increasingly common in Malaysia, the minister added.

Sinovac’s vaccine, said Khairy, will be maintained at a three-week dosage interval because the China-based vaccine developer has yet to release data on whether delaying the second dose would affect its efficacy.

The science, technology and innovation minister acknowledged that Malaysia does relatively little genomic surveillance of coronavirus variants, but said this would be increased over the next few weeks to at least be on par with other Southeast Asian countries.

He added that the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) is not the only organisation undertaking genomic surveillance of Covid-19, but also the Malaysian Genomic Institute under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, as well as universities in Malaysia. 

However, only IMR has so far released data on its genomic surveillance studies to the public through the Ministry of Health (MOH), as well as the Institute of Health & Community Medicine at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) recently.

“Even with the relatively low number of genomic sequencing that we’re doing, by identifying that there’s already B.1.617.2 in Malaysia, it could mean there are more cases of B.1.617.2.

“That’s usually the case because genomic surveillance is a sample. So because of that, because of the presence of B.1.617.2 already in Malaysia, that’s why we’re a bit careful about the dosing interval moving to six weeks,” Khairy said.

The minister pointed out that the United Kingdom is now shortening the dosage interval for AstraZeneca’s vaccine from 12 to 10 weeks in light of the new variants.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said Tuesday that MOH has detected the B.1.617.2 variant in a Malaysian in Labuan, who took the same flight as an Indian national from Kuala Lumpur to Labuan on April 23.

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