Malaysia to press ahead with purchase of AstraZeneca vaccine, says Khairy

Vials labelled ‘Astra Zeneca Covid-19 Coronavirus Vaccine’ and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo, in this illustration photo taken March 14, 2021. — Reuters pic
Vials labelled ‘Astra Zeneca Covid-19 Coronavirus Vaccine’ and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo, in this illustration photo taken March 14, 2021. — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 15 — Malaysia will proceed with the purchase and acquisition of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines as there has been no evidence that the vaccine causes blood clots, said National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme Coordinating Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said AstraZeneca had informed Malaysia on the side effects of the vaccine and so far, there has been no data to indicate any direct link between the vaccine and reports of blood clots in people, which had resulted in deaths in a few countries.

“As of now we will not take another stand. The purchase of the AstraZeneca vaccines remains the same,” he told a joint press conference with Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba on the development of the immunisation programme, here, today.

Several countries such as Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Thailand have reportedly paused rollout of AstraZeneca’s vaccine following reports of blood clots occurring in several individuals after being vaccinated.

Khairy, who is also Science, Technology and Innovation Minister said the the ministry would study the clinical data on incidents that have occurred abroad to enable experts to draw conclusions on the vaccine use. 

Meanwhile, Dr Adham said the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Division (NPRA) conducts thorough studies on any Covid-19 vaccine to be used in Malaysia.

“We trust the NPRA’s decisions, and in the case of the AstraZeneca vaccine we have looked into its quality and safety,” he said.

The Drug Control Authority (DCA) on March 2 approved the conditional registration of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. 

Meanwhile, Khairy informed that Malaysia will take delivery of additional Pfizer BioNTech vaccines in stages for the first phase of the immunisation programme.

Today saw the delivery of 83,070 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, we will be receiving 124,020 doses on March 22 and another 125,190 on March 26, he said.

“Cumulatively, Malaysia will receive 1,000,350 doses of vaccine and this completes the delivery for the first quarter,” he said, adding that 100,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine will also be delivered today.

Asked why Malaysia procured Covid-19 vaccine in large quantities, Khairy said the bulk purchase was to facilitate the mitigation process, which is to reduce the risk of delays in the delivery of vaccines to Malaysia.

“There is a possibility that we may need to give a ‘booster shot’ which is another dose next year if the pandemic remains so it is good to have ready stock,” he said.

Khairy said the ministry was also looking into the possibility of vaccinating teenagers, adding that Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca manufacturers were already conducting clinical trials on individuals aged 12 to 16.

Meanwhile, Khairy opined that all types of Covid-19 vaccines recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) should be accepted by all countries and included in the vaccine passport.

“It is not easy to use our own regulatory approvals.  At least if the vaccine has emergency authorisation by WHO, then countries should be able to accept that,” he said, adding that Malaysia would hold a discussion with the European Union (EU) and several other countries on the vaccine passport issue.

Khairy said this when asked about the possible difficulties for Malaysians to travel to the EU countries following reports that the EU’s vaccine passport will only be valid with vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Of the five vaccine types in Malaysia’s vaccine portfolio, EU has recognised the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines, while the Sputnik V is being considered by the EMA. Other vaccines in Malaysia’s portfolio are Sinovac and CanSinoBIO. — Bernama

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