KUALA LUMPUR, July 29 — Bakri MP and former minister Yeo Bee Yin yesterday questioned why private companies are permitted to sell Covid-19 vaccines.
The former minister of energy, science, technology, environment and climate change also requested Khairy Jamaluddin, the coordinating minister of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK), to verify if six states — Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Sabah, Sarawak and Selangor — booked six million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from local pharmaceutical company Pharmaniaga Bhd for a much higher price than purchases by the federal government.
“Why are the state governments and private sector required to procure Covid-19 vaccines on their own when the federal government has already allocated RM5 billion for PICK?” Yeo said yesterday in a special Dewan Rakyat meeting.
Last Monday, former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad also condemned the commercial business behind Covid-19 vaccines for sale in the private market, stressing that these were supposed to be given for free to the people.
It is to be noted that local pharmaceutical Pharmaniaga Bhd only started distributing the Sinovac vaccine to the private market after fully delivering the federal government’s order of 12 million doses.
The federal government has ordered another three million Sinovac doses from Pharmaniaga as buffer stock for individuals who are unable to be vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine for medical reasons.
Under the state-owned Selvax programme, the Selangor government is charging industries RM350 per employee for two doses. The price — charged to employers, not workers — includes the cost of vaccines, administration, and other logistics costs.
Antah Pharma Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Antah HealthCare Group, has also signed a deal with Pharmaniaga LifeScience Sdn Bhd to distribute Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine for sale to the general public, including employers, general physician clinics, hospitals and pharmacies.
Transparent Management Of PPVs
Yeo also raised questions on the rental fees for Covid-19 vaccination centres (PPVs) and the set-up costs of PPVs, especially mega PPVs.
Yesterday, Khairy revealed that Malaysia has a total of 2,313 PPVs consisting of various sizes and different vaccine administration capacities.
Of these, 17 PPVs are mega PPVs Tier One, which can vaccinate more than 5,000 people daily, while 16 are mega PPVs Tier Two which can vaccinate 3,000 to 5,000 people a day.
“How many PPVs belong to the political parties? What is the average cost of administration of each dose in different PPVs?” Yeo asked.
It is to be noted that the government has appointed ProtectHealth Corporation, a company owned by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to manage the role of private general practitioners (GPs) in the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
“Please provide the list of companies which have received a contract from ProtectHealth Corporation to administer vaccines in PPV,” Yeo added.
Yeo added that under the Public-Private Covid-19 Industrial Immunisation Programme (PIKAS), one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine costs RM45.
“If the government can get vaccines at a cheaper price, why didn’t the government supply the vaccines for that price to the state governments?”
PIKAS, which is also referred to as Phase Four of PICK, focuses on several key sectors such as manufacturing that were operating since the lockdown phase, mainly to reduce Covid-19 workplace clusters.
Under PIKAS, other sectors including construction, agriculture, retail and hospitality too were included in stages.
The RM45 charge per dose under PIKAS covers a RM15 vaccine administration payment to ProtectHealth and a RM30 PPV venue payment to PPV operators for common-use PPVs. However, on-site PPVs under PIKAS may charge a different vaccine administration cost.
Regular PPVs More Efficient Than Mega PPVs
Two weeks ago, nearly half of all personnel at the Covid-19 vaccination site at Ideal Convention Centre (IDCC) in Shah Alam, Selangor, tested positive for Covid-19 in a mass screening.
Yeo, who cited this incident, suggested the government conduct Covid-19 screening for all staff members at PPVs every week to prevent any outbreaks in vaccination centres.
“Is the government planning to do a pre screening before a vaccinee enters the PPV as there are Covid-19 cases everywhere in Klang Valley?
“What about the manpower effectiveness in PPVs? What is the optimum ratio of staff to vaccine administration capacity in PPVs?”
The Bakri MP from Johor compared the ratio of health care workers and vaccine administration capacity in the mega IDCC PPV to two regular PPVs in Muar, Johor — Dewan Maharani Muar and Dewan Jubli Intan.
She said that the IDCC PPV, which can vaccinate 6,000 people a day, has 453 personnel with a ratio of 1:13, smaller than the 1:18 and 1:25 ratios in Dewan Maharani Muar and Dewan Jubli Intan respectively.
Slow Covid-19 Vaccination Rate During Early Days
While Yeo commended the recent high Covid-19 vaccination rate in the country, she asked why the first few months of PICK recorded a slow vaccination rate.
Yeo pointed out that from the total number of 6,500 deaths from May this year, 5,500 people had comorbidities.
“Many of them actually registered for Covid-19 vaccine, but died before receiving their jabs,” she said.
“These deaths shouldn’t have occurred. They died because PICK was slow in administering the vaccines for the first four months. These are unnecessary deaths.”
Yeo noted that the increasing number of Covid-19 infections could have been reduced if PICK had a faster vaccine administration rate from February when it was started.
“Is this delay caused due to the late contract agreements? Many countries have ordered vaccines in the middle of June last year, but Malaysia did that only at the end of last year,” Yeo added.
It is to be noted that Khairy repeatedly told the public that poor vaccine supply prevented a much faster vaccination rate in Malaysia as developed countries monopolised the global vaccine market.
He also told Parliament yesterday that Malaysia began looking for Covid-19 vaccines back in April 2020, before vaccine candidates underwent human clinical trials.