Malaysia to kick off COVID-19 vaccination drive next week

FILE PHOTO: Foreign workers wait in line to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outside a clinic in Kajang

Joseph SipalanTue, 16 February 2021, 3:49 am

By Joseph Sipalan

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia will get its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines produced by U.S. and German drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech on Feb. 21, and kick off its inoculation drive five days after that, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Tuesday.

Malaysia aims to vaccinate at least 80% of its 32 million population within a year as it pushes to revive an economy that, slammed by coronavirus-related curbs last year, recorded its worst annual performance in over two decades.

The country has reported a total of over 260,000 coronavirus cases, the third highest in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and the Philippines, including 975 deaths.

“This comprehensive (vaccination) programme is aimed at ensuring herd immunity in the community so that we can stop the spread of COVID-19 infections and bring an end to the pandemic,” Muhyiddin said at the launch of the programme handbook.

Muhyiddin said he will be the first to receive a dose of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, when the inoculation campaign starts on Feb. 26.

Malaysia also has vaccine supply agreements with Britain’s AstraZeneca, Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, and China’s Sinovac Biotech and CanSino Biologics.

But so far, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use in Malaysia, while the rest are still awaiting authorisation from the country’s drug control regulators.

The first phase of Malaysia’s vaccination drive will run from February to April, and will involve 300,000 medical and 200,000 non-medical frontline workers – including politicians, security and welfare officers, Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters after the launch.

Malaysia’s cabinet has also agreed to prepare a special injury scheme to compensate people who experience serious side-effects after receiving the vaccine, Khairy added.

“We will also have protocols in place if excess doses are not used. We will be giving doses to security personnel and people volunteering at the (vaccine delivery) centres so there is no wastage,” Khairy said.

(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan, Writing by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Ed Davies and Himani Sarkar)