Review Budget 2021 for MOH to meet Covid-19 vaccine’s logistical, storage requirements, says think tank

Small bottles labelled with a ‘Vaccine COVID-19’ sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. — Reuters pic
Small bottles labelled with a ‘Vaccine COVID-19’ sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 28 — While commending the government for its Covid-19 vaccine purchase agreement with Pfizer yesterday, a think tank believes that the allocation under Budget 2021 for the Health Ministry (MOH) should be reviewed, especially with regard to the vaccines’ logistical and storage requirements.

According to Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive officer Azrul Mohd Khalib, the Covid-19 vaccines would require ultra-cold storage of minus 70 degrees’ Celcius, which is something beyond the capability of most existing primary healthcare facilities in the country.

Therefore, he said, the reliance would be on the availability of suitable storage units at the state level to ensure the vaccines’ cold-chain remained uninterrupted.

“We need to ensure that the MOH gets the necessary funds and manpower needed to hit the ground running when the vaccines become available in 2021, especially since they have specific logistical and storage requirements which will require investing in the necessary infrastructure and training.

“Are we going to acquire Pfizer’s special ice-boxes? Have we allocated for the record-keeping system that will be needed? As it stands, we do not believe that the existing allocations are adequate for this purpose,” he said in a statement today.

On November 24, the Malaysian government, through the MOH, signed a preliminary purchasing agreement with pharmaceutical company Pfizer to obtain 12.8 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to meet the immunisation needs of 20 per cent or 6.4 million Malaysians.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that through the agreement, Pfizer had pledged to deliver one million doses, 1.7 million doses, 5.8 million doses and 4.3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 2021.

Azrul, meanwhile, also expects challenges in the Covid-19 vaccine delivery process to rural areas due to limitations and pragmatic concerns.

He said distributing vaccines from the manufacturer to the actual vaccination sites in the community can be extremely challenging, especially when it involves messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines (a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases).

He also urged the government to address and overcome the high levels of widespread misinformation regarding Covid-19 and vaccines, in general. — Bernama

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