Govt to address vaccine issue today

KUALA LUMPUR: The Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry is expected to issue a statement today on the country’s plan for Covid-19 vaccines.

The statement is in response to a call by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) for the Health Ministry to explain to the rakyat why the country had not signed onto the Covax Vaccine Plan for Covid-19 vaccines.

Malaysia, said MMA president Dr N. Ganabaskaran (pic), was not among the 172 countries that had signed up before the deadline yesterday.

“MMA believes even if Malaysia has its own bilateral negotiations for a vaccine, signing up for the Covax Vaccine Plan can be an added option that will guarantee access to vaccines for Covid-19.

“We urge the Health Ministry to be transparent about its plans to acquire vaccines for the country. The rakyat have a right to know and the government has a duty to keep the country informed, ” he said yesterday.

Covax – the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility – is an initiative launched by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organisation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

More than 170 countries have signalled their intention to join Covax.

Although there are more than 200 Covid-19 vaccines in development, it is believed that most are likely to fail.

MMA, said Dr Ganabaskaran, understood that there might be safety concerns on vaccine development being fast-tracked.

“We are equally concerned. However, any potential vaccine will be thoroughly evaluated through stringent checks by the Health Ministry for efficacy and safety before it is approved and declared safe, ” he said.

He added that even if the ministry needed more time beyond the Covax vaccination plan deadline to decide, the rakyat must know.

“The Health Minister must respond now or he may have to answer to the rakyat later on why Malaysia is last in the queue for the vaccines, ” he said.

On Aug 20, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that it would recommend that Covid-19 vaccine be provided for free for all Malaysians.

He said that Malaysia had participated in the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which had funded many vaccine research efforts by countries and companies in Western countries.