PUTRAJAYA: The government, through the Health Ministry, has inked a deal with pharmaceutical company Pfizer to obtain Covid-19 vaccines for 20 per cent of the Malaysian population starting next year.
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government had, on Nov 24, signed a preliminary purchasing agreement (perjanjian pembelian awal) of 12.8 million doses to immunise 6.4 million Malaysians.
"Through this arrangement, Pfizer has agreed to deliver one million doses in the first quarter of next year, followed by 1.7 million doses in the second quarter, 5.8 million in the third quarter and 4.3 million doses in the fourth quarter.
"Vaccination will be conducted in phases and will prioritise high-risk groups who are more susceptible to Covid-19," he told reporters today.
He added that high risk groups, including frontline workers, the elderly, and patients with non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and others, would be the first to be vaccinated before it is expanded to other target groups.
Vaccination will be free for Malaysians, while foreigners will be charged, at a rate to be determined by the Health Ministry.
Muhyiddin said the agreement with Pfizer is to ensure that the government has data access to evaluate vaccine quality, safety, and efficacy, apart from ensuring access to the vaccine once it is distributed by the company.
He said Pfizer, on Nov 9, reported that their primary interim data showed a vaccine efficacy of 95 per cent.
"However, the company still needs the approval of the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and regulatory approval from the producing country, in addition to obtaining approval from our Health Ministry's National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) before it can be used in Malaysia."
The Health Ministry, he added, had also signed an agreement with the vaccine development platform Covax Facility to obtain Covid-19 vaccines to immunise 10 per cent of Malaysians.
Muhyiddin said both agreements therefore are expected to guarantee Covid-19 vaccine access for 30 per cent of Malaysians.
"The Health Ministry, together with the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, are in active discussion with companies worldwide to gain enough access to the Covid-19 vaccine for Malaysians," he said.
He also announced that the Health Ministry would begin a phase three vaccine clinical research through a government-to-government initiative with China, with the vaccine being developed by the republic's Institute of Medical Biology Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (IMBCAMS).
A total of 3,000 participants would be involved in the clinical research, said Muhyiddin, and would evaluate the safety and efficacy of the developed vaccine.
"The study, which is expected to start in Dec 2020, will be conducted by the local clinical research organisation, and has been registered in the National Medical Research Register.
"The vaccine safety profile will be first reviewed by the NPRA to obtain the Clinical Trial Import License, and will be studied by the Medical Research and Ethics Committee to ensure that the study is conducted in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines," added Muhyiddin.
He also said this initiative would involve eight clinical research centres under the Health Ministry.
"The government expresses its highest appreciation to the IMBCAMS which will be collaborating with us to conduct the phase three clinical research in Malaysia.
"The government also provides its assurance to all Malaysians that that the vaccines used in Malaysia must meet the strict conditions set by the NPRA.
"We will never compromise on this," he added.