Covid-19 Vaccine Deliveries To Malaysia Painfully Slow

Malaysia will have received by June 11 only about 7.6 million vaccine doses, comprising 11% of 69.6 million doses ordered from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — Covid-19 vaccine shipments are arriving in Malaysia at a sluggish pace, amid a surging epidemic that is infecting thousands and killing dozens of Malaysians daily.

In total, Malaysia would have received by tomorrow just 7,575,609 doses of approved Covid-19 vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca-Oxford, and Sinovac — comprising about 11 per cent of the total 69.6 million doses ordered, based on vaccine delivery figures released by Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

Khairy told a press conference yesterday that Malaysia would have received by tomorrow 3,641,040 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, comprising a mere 8 per cent of the federal government’s total order of 44.8 million doses.

The 3,641,040 figure includes delivery of 444,600 doses from yesterday to tomorrow: 225,810 doses on June 9, another 191,880 doses scheduled for arrival today on June 10, and another 26,910 doses scheduled for arrival tomorrow on June 11.

As for Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine, Malaysia has received only 3,106,569 doses, comprising just 26 per cent of the federal government’s 12 million order.

The 3,106,569 figure includes 1,137,960 doses that just received lot release approval from the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) over the past two days from June 8 to 9 before distribution to health care facilities.

Khairy previously told local pharmaceutical company Pharmaniaga Berhad to fulfill the federal government’s order of 12 million doses either through the fill-and-finish process in local manufacturing or by importing the finished vaccine from Sinovac’s manufacturing site in Beijing, China.

The delivery of only a quarter of the federal government’s Sinovac vaccine order comes amid apparent competition with the Selangor state government that has separately procured 2.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses for a state rollout that is expected to launch early next month. Selangor is expecting delivery of the first batch by the end of June.

Although Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari declined to disclose to reporters yesterday the brand of vaccine purchased by the state government, it is highly likely that Selangor has procured the Sinovac shot from Pharmaniaga, the same manufacturer supplying the federal government, given that NPRA has not yet approved additional coronavirus vaccines.

Khairy also said yesterday that Malaysia is also expecting delays with its first deliveries of the directly purchased AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine that is manufactured in Thailand, amid reported production problems at Siam Bioscience.

“We are expecting some delays. I’ve been on calls for the last two or three day with AstraZeneca as well as with other governments to ensure that we can shore up our supply for this month,” Khairy told reporters, without elaborating further.

The Malaysian government previously expected to receive 610,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine in June, 410,000 doses in July, and 1.2 million doses between August and September from its direct procurement order.

Malaysia has directly purchased 6.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, besides ordering another 6.4 million doses of the same shot from COVAX, a global vaccine sharing programme backed by the United Nations.

COVAX has delivered 828,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses — manufactured by South Korea’s SK Bioscience — to Malaysia so far, comprising only about 13 per cent of the 6.4 million order. A total of 1,387,200 AstraZeneca vaccine doses from COVAX was expected to be delivered in the second quarter of the year, which leaves 559,200 doses to be shipped to Malaysia in the next three weeks.

The 69.6 million doses of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac vaccines — all two-dose regimens — cover 34.8 million people, more than the country’s entire population of 32.7 million residents. Although the federal government has also ordered Russia’s Sputnik V and CanSino Biologics’ vaccines, the NPRA has yet to approve these for use in Malaysia.

As of June 8, only 8 per cent of Malaysia’s total population, or 2.6 million people, has received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. A total of 3,790,121 doses have been administered, comprising just 63.2 per cent of the 5,993,049 doses received so far, excluding the Pfizer deliveries scheduled from yesterday to tomorrow and the Sinovac deliveries that just received lot release approval over the past two days.

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