Even though the national COVID-19 vaccination program is still in the preparation stage, the Science, Technology, and Innovation Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin has provided some early information during a press conference at the Parlimen earlier today. Among the important points that he has revealed during the session is that the COVID-19 vaccination will be administered on a voluntary basis.
Those who choose to obtain the vaccine can sign up through MySejahtera app when the time comes and it will only be available for those aged 18 years old and above. Minister Khary also pointed out that the Ministry of Health (MoH) will observe the conditions of vaccinated individuals for the next few years in order to monitor any side-effects from the vaccine.
Referred to as phase 4 of the vaccination program by the minister, they can also report their post-vaccine conditions through the self-monitoring feature within MySejahtera or reach out directly to MoH. Minister Khairy has also revealed that the government has allocated RM 16.7 million as the budget to acquire the cold supply chain for the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.
This is due to the fact that the vaccine needs to be stored at -70 Celsius which will then allowed it to last for up to six months. When stored at normal refrigerators that have a temperature range of 2 to 8 Celsius, the shelf life of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine would then significantly drop to five days as opposed to the vaccine from AstraZeneca-Oxford-Vaccitech which is able to last for six months in storage at the same temperature range.
Out of that RM 16.6 million budget, RM 6.7 million will be used to purchase 55 ultra-cold freezers while rest of the allocation will be utilized to obtain cold boxes and other related supplies. Anticipating the logistic challenges that the authorities will encounter in order to get the vaccine to the citizens, it is not surprising that Minister Khairy stated that the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine will likely be made available for urban areas while its AstraZeneca counterpart will be heading to rural areas.