KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — The government purchased 8.4 million doses of the finished Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine from China, 42 times higher than the originally planned 200,000 doses, due to Pharmaniaga Berhad’s delay in supplying its manufactured version.
According to the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) report on Covid-19 vaccine procurement tabled in Parliament last Wednesday, the government purchased just four million doses of the inactivated vaccine that was locally produced by Pharmaniaga via the fill-and-finish process, three times lower than the initial planned order of 12 million doses.
That means, of the 12.4 million Sinovac vaccine doses, more than two thirds were imported in their finished form directly from Sinovac’s manufacturing site in Beijing, China, while less than a third were manufactured through fill-and-finish by Pharmaniaga.
“Among the reasons for the disparity in the procurement volumes were the delayed deliveries of Sinovac’s fill and finished product by Pharmaniaga, and rising needs since May 2021,” said the PAC report.
As a result of the delay, the PAC found that 400,000 Sinovac vaccine doses were procured last May 31 at 18.12 per cent higher than the original price, while a batch of two million doses was purchased on July 19 for 16.78 per cent more expensive than the original price. These higher-priced 2.4 million Sinovac doses were of the finished vaccine imported from China.
The first batch of 12 million Sinovac doses procured last March 22 were purchased at the original price.
“We have to pay like premium and that was agreed by the Cabinet. That’s we want to accelerate things. If not, we’d have to wait until October,” Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told a PAC meeting on July 27.
According to a Hansard of the July 27 PAC meeting published in the PAC’s report, Khairy said Pharmaniaga only delivered about two million of four million vaccine doses via fill-and-finish promised from April to June this year.
“Pharmaniaga was supposed to give us one million [doses] from April and May. They could only give half a million [doses] in May, partly because of regulatory approval delay and after we got the regulatory approval, there was one month of stability test that still need to be done,” Khairy said, referring to the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency’s (NPRA) approval process for Pharmaniaga’s plant.
“NPRA has to give approval, not just for the vaccine but also for the factory. That was held up a bit. So because it was held up, then Pharmaniaga could only start ramping up the fill and finish production in June. You can see in June they could supply us one million.
“So we already had a backlog and I cannot wait for Pharmaniaga to supply the fill and finish. So I said buy from Sinovac lah, direct as in finish product from Sinovac through Pharmaniaga.”
PAC chairman Wong Kah Woh said: “So the backlog was partly, of course, caused by NPRA and partly also by Pharmaniaga failure to actually deliver as per schedule”, to which Khairy replied, “Yes.”
PAC’s report said the Malaysian government had initially procured the Sinovac vaccine at a lower price than Indonesia and China because most of the order was meant to be delivered via fill-and-finish domestically in Malaysia.
When Pharmaniaga first signed an agreement with China’s Sinovac to carry out the fill-and-finish process of the coronavirus vaccine, Pharmaniaga said last March that this would enable technology transfer to grow the vaccine sector in Malaysia.
As of September 13, the government has ordered 20.4 million Sinovac vaccine doses, most of which have already gone into arms.
The government did not announce any new Sinovac orders since, even as the booster vaccination programme is being rolled out. Sinovac is primarily available in the private market, as the preferred booster offered free under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme is Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for all regardless of the type of vaccine taken from primary vaccination. AstraZeneca is the alternative booster vaccine offered in vaccination sites under the public rollout.