Cost, local laws affecting procurement of COVID-19 vaccine

MALAYSIA has yet to formalise its participation in the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (GAVI) for COVID-19 due to cost issues.

As Malaysia and Thailand are ranked as upper middle-income nations, both countries did not qualify for reduced rates of the vaccines, according to Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin

“And there are also procurement policy issues as Malaysia’s existing rules do not accommodate products that are not yet in existence,” he said, during an interview with BFM radio station this morning.

However, he expressed hope that Malaysia can reach an agreement with GAVI by next month.

GAVI is a global alliance established to gain access to a portfolio of vaccines for COVID-19, which is popularly termed as the Covax facility.

To date, 64 countries have signed the agreement, with another 38 in final stages of reaching an agreement.

However, Khairy assured the public that the Covax facility is only one of the pillars in a multi-pronged strategy to come up with the vaccine.

“The government is also working on bilateral agreements with individual pharmaceutical companies on the matter.

“In fact, we are also in active talks with China to procure vaccines for COVID-19,” said Khairy.

High risk groups to be prioritised

On who will be prioritised when the vaccines are ready, he said the government would follow guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Frontliners such as healthcare and social care workers will be the first ones to receive them. It will then be followed by teachers, policemen and other security personnel.

“For the public, high-risk groups such as those above the age of 60 will be prioritised,” said Khairy.

On that note, Khairy said he had recommended to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for the cost of the first round of vaccines – for Malaysians and possibly permanent residents – to be borne by the government.

He had also proposed for an allocation of RM3 bil in Budget 2021 for the procurement of the vaccine.

“The proposal should cover the needs of about 70% of our population at a blended pricing model of US$10 (RM 41.54) per dose.

“We are discussing with Pharmaniaga Bhd and Duopharma Biotech Bhd, and soon with other private sector players on investing in the fill and finish stage of the vaccine in Malaysia,” he said.

Not in Anwar’s team

Meanwhile, Khairy also dismissed speculation that he was part of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s plot to overthrow the Muhyiddin-led Perikatan Nasional government.

He also cautioned politicians against pushing for snap polls during a pandemic.

“As the minister in charge science, I want to say clearly that having a general election right now, in the midst of a third wave of COVID-19 infections is absolutely irresponsible.

“I advise all of you to please listen to science,” added Khairy. – Oct 16, 2020

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