KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 — Malaysians who are not active frontliners, below the age of 60 and in relatively good health can expect to receive their dose of Covid-19 vaccinations only by the third-quarter of this year or later, the science, technology and innovation minister revealed today.

Khairy Jamaluddin, also the Special Committee on Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) co-chair, said this is because the first batch of vaccines to arrive will be prioritised to inoculate those within vulnerable groups. 

“Frontline workers from the healthcare and security sectors will go first. Then senior citizens and people with chronic illnesses.

“Only then we will move on to the general population in order to get to a meaningful herd immunity threshold.

“If you are a healthy adult under 60 and not a frontline worker, it is safe to assume that your turn will come by Q3 or after,” he wrote in a statement today.

Khairy explained that only the first batch of vaccines from US company Pfizer will arrive at the end of February, and stressed that additional doses will arrive in staggered batches based on quarterly schedules, and not all in one go.

“First, no country receives their entire order in one shot. For our Pfizer order, we will receive one million doses in Q1 of 2021, 1.7 million doses in Q2, 5.8 million doses in Q3 and 4.3 million doses in Q4.

“The delivery of our orders with other manufacturers will also be staggered. This is the reality of global manufacturing capacity for Covid-19 vaccines and demand outstripping supply,” he wrote.

He then cleared the air, presumably dashing the hopes of those expecting the entire population to receive their vaccination jabs by March.

“When we announced our first delivery for some time before the end of February, some people assumed that all our vaccines would arrive then. There are politicians who have assumed that we can even have elections in March because everyone will be inoculated by then.

“A February delivery schedule does not mean everyone is vaccinated in February.

“In fact, Malaysia’s vaccination plan will span 18 months. While we will try our best to get as many people vaccinated within one year, we want to be prudent in our timeline,” he added.

Khairy assured Malaysians that adequate research will be conducted on all vaccines procured by the country and subject to approval from the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency.

This was in response to doubts being raised about the efficacy of the Chinese Sinovac vaccines after tests in Brazil showed it to have only a 50.4 per cent effective.

“In the Sinovac case, our Vaccine Selection Technical Working Group (TWG) chaired by Dr Kalaiarasu Peariasamy, Director of the Institute of Clinical Research, is analysing the announcement and will subsequently advise me on the way forward.

“Whatever the decision, I want to assure you that we will only get vaccines that are safe and efficacious for Malaysians,” he said.

He then added how procurement plans are to some degree flexible, saying decisions could change along the way depending on the release of clinical data, commercial terms, and ultimately its availability. 

He also promised to regularly update the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee on the ongoing developments in the interests of accountability and legislative oversight.

“Let me end this update by again managing expectations that the vaccine is not a silver bullet.

“Until and unless we can get to meaningful herd immunity, where as many people are vaccinated as possible with effective vaccines, we will still need non-pharmaceutical interventions.

“This means face masks, physical distancing and good personal hygiene will be part of our daily lives even when we roll out the vaccines,” he added.