Arrival of Sinovac vaccines boosts national immunisation programme

KUALA LUMPUR: Another batch of Covid-19 vaccines have arrived safely in the country to boost the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, this time from Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac.

The supplies, which were flown from Beijing, China via Malaysia Airlines flight MH319, landed safely at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang at 9am today, six days after Malaysia received its first batch from Pfizer-BioNTech.

The Airbus 330-300 aircraft with Jalur Gemilang livery brought in 200 litres of the Covid-19 vaccine in liquid form, which can be processed into more than 300,000 doses.

Also of note was the involvement of female pilot, Nur Waie Hidayah Mohamad Rasidin who flew the plane with four other male co-pilots.

Coordinating Minister for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, Khairy Jamaluddin, who is also the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and China’s Ambassador to Malaysia Ouyang Yujing were all present at KLIA to witness the arrival of the vaccine supply.

After an inspection by the MASkargo vaccine handling team, the special container carrying the vaccine liquid was transferred into a lorry belonging to Pharmaniaga LifeScience Sdn Bhd and escorted by police to the designated vaccine storage location.

According to Khairy, the Sinovac vaccine received by Malaysia today must first go through a fill and finish process by Pharmaniaga before it is evaluated and approved by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA).

He said the manufacturing process was among the criteria that will be evaluated by the regulatory body before providing its recommendation to the Drug Control Authority (DCA) for approval.

He added that the vaccine was received in advance by Malaysia even though it had not been approved by the national regulatory body, because the supply of Covid-19 vaccines was currently limited.

Khairy then cited Singapore, which also received the vaccine in the finished form even though it had not received approval from its regulatory body.

Among other Southeast Asian countries that have received the Sinovac vaccine are Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo became the first Southeast Asian leader to inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine, which is marketed as CoronaVac.

Earlier, Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president Amrahi Buang said there were no short-cuts for the approval of the Covid-19 vaccines for the Malaysian market, instead, they were subjected to strict conditions to ensure safety, effectiveness and quality.

Amrahi said even Covid-19 vaccines that had been registered in other countries must receive NPRA’s approval to ensure the well-being of Malaysians, as has always been the practice.

Meanwhile, Khairy said 1.183 million individuals had registered themselves through the MySejahera application to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

He said 3,580 individuals had so far been inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine since the start of the Immunisation Programme on Feb 24.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah were among the first recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the Putrajaya District Health Centre.

The vaccination process nationwide will be carried out at 605 Vaccination Centres (PPVs) which will receive the supply from 54 Vaccine Storage Centres (PSVs).

The country’s largest immunisation programme is targeting 80 per cent of the Malaysian population to be inoculated to achieve herd immunity.

The first phase of vaccination which lasts until April involves frontliners, while the second phase from April to August is for senior citizens aged 60 and above as well as vulnerable groups with morbidity issues and persons with disabilities, while the third phase from May to February next year, is for everyone else aged 18 and above.

Malaysia has entered into an agreement to obtain 66.7 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine through the COVAX facility and five vaccine manufacturers, namely Pfizer-BioNTech, Astra Zeneca, Sinovac, CanSino and Gamaleya. -Bernama

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