Malaysia Should Not Rely On Only One Type Of COVID-19 Vaccine

As An Investment, Malaysia Is Required To Deposit Us$10 Per Dose (Two Doses Per Pax) For 20 Per Cent Of Its Population As Starters

Malaysia Should Not Rely On Only One Type Of COVID-19 Vaccine
By Dr Musa Mohd Nordin

Covid-19 pandemic has caught virtually every nation unprepared. The Global Health Security Alliance study last year found that the pandemic preparedness plans of the majority of nations fell deplorably short. The explosive and brutal pace of the pandemic has claimed 1.3 million lives and registered 55 million cases. Notwithstanding, the scientific community has risen to the challenge and made major inroads into understanding the SARS-CoV-2 virus, better known as Covid-19.

Apart from the public health measures of wearing face masks, physical distancing, personal and community hygiene, avoiding the 3Cs, meticulous attention to the quartet of Test-Trace-Isolate-Support, accurate diagnostics, and safe as well as effective therapeutics, we critically need Covid-19 vaccines to crush the pandemic curve and end this global health crisis.

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The first vaccine trials in humans began in March and there are now 54 candidate vaccines in various phases of clinical trials. 12 are now in phase 3 clinical trials and six vaccines have obtained national emergency use authorisation. The science of genetic vaccines is a major breakthrough in the development of Covid-19 vaccines.

There is no precedent of mRNA vaccines in our historical portfolio of vaccines. The technique involves introducing a select mRNA sequence which codes for the coronavirus spike protein into the vaccine. The vaccine first makes the spike protein which acts as the antigen, which then triggers the proliferation of protective antibodies to neutralise it. Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech were the first to demonstrate that their vaccine was 90 per cent effective.

Covax, an initiative of the World Health Organisation, the Vaccine Alliance and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, has the largest portfolio of 18 vaccines with diverse actions to end the pandemic as soon as possible.

They crystallise the collaborations between governments, global health agencies, vaccine manufacturers, scientists, private sectors, civil societies and philanthropists to ensure equitable access to diagnostic tests, therapeutics and vaccines irrespective of national income status. They are on the frontlines in the research, development, manufacture and pricing of vaccines.

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Their tagline is “No one is safe unless everyone is safe”, and they endeavour to ensure equitable access to Covid vaccines to all countries. This is probably the best investment and insurance policy for any nation to ensure an adequate vaccine supply at affordable prices for its citizens. Thus, 78 high-income nations and 92 low to-middle-income countries have signed the agreement.

We are still unsure what is the status of Malaysia. As an investment, Malaysia is required to deposit US$10 per dose (two doses per pax) for 20 per cent of its population as starters. I doubt any payment has been made towards this end. We, the people might, in turn, lose out on a golden opportunity to get access to 18 potential vaccines from Covax at the best prices.

Instead, we’ve inked deals with Chinese vaccine manufacturers. This is limiting ourselves to just one type of vaccine, which may not turn out to be efficacious nor safe in the long run compared with the 18 potential vaccines in the Covax portfolio. Many are hoping to reap massive profits from the vaccine deals that are being negotiated on the side.

We must secure the best deals directly with Covax or from the vaccine manufacturers without the interference of middle parties who will be walking to the bank with millions in profits.

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We can crunch the numbers to make it more obvious: The population of Malaysia is 32 million. The first deal is to immunise 20 per cent o f our population (healthcare workers/the elderly/high risk with comorbidities), about 6.4 million people. The immunisation regime requires two doses per pax — 12.8 million doses. If the middle party sells to the government at a profit of RM10 per dose, it will make a profit of RM128 million.

This is the type of leakage that the nation can do without, especially when its fiscal circumstances are in dire straits and the gross domestic product has contracted by 17 per cent in the second quarter. The Minister of Finance Incorporated should be directly negotiating deals with Covax or the vaccine makers, without any middle parties. An advisory board of experts, key opinion leaders, economists and scientists may counsel the government on the best vaccine options with the best deals to best protect the nation’s and the people’s interests.

This news was originally published at NST

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