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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 — The government has confirmed its purchase of 55 freezers worth RM6.7 million to keep the Covid-19 vaccine ordered from US maker Pfizer, Khairy Jamaluddin said today.
The science, technology and innovation ministry minister said the expense was necessary because the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires storage at super low temperatures, more so in tropical Malaysia.
He said the 55 freezer storage units will be placed in 55 urban locations.
He added that another Covid-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca will be used in rural locations as it can be stored at regular fridge temperatures.
“There are lots of concerns about the extraordinary temperatures that the Pfizer-BioNTech (vaccine) must be kept at and if we have the facility.
“To that end we have approved purchases of ultra-low temperature freezers, cold box and other related medical supplies for the cold chain and ultra-cold chain at RM16.6 million,” he told reporters.
He also explained that the price of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine covers delivery to multiple points of vaccination.
“AstraZeneca is not inclusive of the price of delivery.
“What I can reveal, I was asked (by the PAC) and will be reflected in their report,” he said, citing reasons of the contract’s non-disclosure agreement.
He added that while Pfizer-BioNTech delivers to the point of vaccination, storage is the responsibility of the Malaysian government.
“Some quarters said storage (alone) is RM16.6 million.
“The cold storage units are worth RM6.7 million, RM70,000 to RM80,000 per freezer. We need to spend that,” he said.
When asked about unauthorised distributors likely present in the market, the minister they will be breaking the law.
“All vaccines must be approved by the pharmaceutical agency. Any unauthorised sale of the vaccine is punishable by law.
“We are monitoring and will act swiftly should we receive any reports,” he said.
Khairy has also assured that Malaysia is not late in receiving its Covid-19 vaccines, as countries in the region are also receiving their vaccines at about the same time.
He gave examples including South Korea that is receiving its Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the third quarter of this year, while Australia is slated to get its shipment in March.
“Why, for instance, has Singapore got its Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine first, or earlier than us, this is an important point I want to make.
“Singapore with a budget of over S$1 billion was able to make multiple bets with Pfizer-BioNTech and other vaccines, mostly for three to four million people.
“So, I couldn’t place the bets like Singapore made, bigger down payments to say I want it by December.
“We can’t do that, we have 30 million people,” he said.
He also cited Japan that is receiving its vaccines in February and Thailand in May.
“We also don’t want to be the first country out there because we want to learn.
“As you see in the news, there’s been problems in terms of logistics, wastage, vials thrown away.
“We want to learn from that experience. Once we start in February, we get it right straightaway,” he said.