KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 — Khairy Jamaluddin explained today that the government ordered the new Covid-19 oral antiviral medicine by Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) and Ridgeback to treat serious breakthrough infections among vaccinated people.
The health minister said the government signed a letter of undertaking with MSD to purchase molnupiravir, a five-day regimen, for 150,000 patients as a start, based on projections on the number of people who would need the treatment, amid extremely high vaccine coverage in Malaysia.
“Even though our vaccination rate is very high — 90 per cent of adults will complete vaccination — we bought the pill because there are still breakthrough infections,” Khairy told a virtual press conference.
“There are some cases of infections among fully vaccinated people, including Category Three to Five cases who are admitted into hospital.
“We give a choice to doctors to give the pill either to unvaccinated people or vaccinated individuals, who because of certain health problems, have severe infections in Category Three, Four or Five.”
An interim analysis of MSD’s Phase Three clinical trial on molnupiravir in unvaccinated adults with mild to moderate Covid-19 showed that the medicine reduced the risk of hospitalisation by 50 per cent, the American multinational pharmaceutical company said in an October 1 press release.
Khairy declined to reveal the price that the Malaysian government is paying to procure 150,000 courses of molnupiravir, citing non-disclosure agreements. The United States government spent US$1.2 billion on its order of 1.7 million courses, which translates to US$700 per five-day course, Stat reported.
Khairy confirmed that molnupiravir will be provided for free in public health care facilities.
According to the CovidNow website, nearly 30 per cent of Covid-19 cases and 16.5 per cent of Covid-19 deaths in the past two months comprised the fully vaccinated.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) does not release data on the vaccination status of hospitalised Covid-19 cases, as it is difficult to track the progress of a patient from testing positive through admission and discharge or death.