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Experts Urge Malaysia To Join Global Covid-19 Vaccine Access Plan – COVAX Before Deadline Ends

Experts Urge Malaysia To Join Global Covid-19 Vaccine Access Plan – COVAX Before Deadline Ends

They believe making direct deal negotiations would be too risky.

Tasneem Nazari

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Health experts are urging the Malaysian government to join COVAX – the global Covid-19 vaccine access plan, before its deadline on 18 September to ensure the country is involved in the global race to find a vaccine against the pandemic.

Described by the COVAX coordinator as an “insurance policy”, COVAX is a platform that will support the research, development, manufacturing, and price negotiations of Covid-19 vaccines from a wide range of candidates.

The COVAX facility will also monitor Covid-19 vaccines currently being produced to identify the most suitable candidate and help participating countries gain access to the vaccine as quickly, fairly, and safely as possible.

It is coordinated by the international vaccine alliance GAVI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

So far, 78 nations, including Australia and the UK, have reportedly signed up with COVAX as a safety net in the event the vaccines separately backed by them in other bilateral deals fail to work.

Malaysia has up to September 18 to decide. This is a big decision for the rakyat and the country.

Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) president Amrahi Buang via CodeBlue
Amrahi Buang speaks at the Health Ministry’s town hall meeting on February 13, 2020, in Putrajaya on the Poisons (Amendment) 2019 Bill. (Credit: Facebook)

According to health experts, making such bilateral deals with other countries or depending fully on vaccines from particular manufacturers is risky. 

This is because currently, no Covid-19 vaccine has proved its safety or effectiveness and these nations would definitely prioritise their own populations first once their vaccine is approved.

Speaking to CodeBlue, Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) president Amrahi Buang said that Malaysia should seriously consider signing up with COVAX, unless the government can come up with alternative solutions.

According to Amrahi, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba recently stated that the government has no plans to join COVAX yet, adding that the government should state its reasons for the decision.

Malaysia is reportedly in talks with China over a potential agreement to ensure we have immediate access to an approved Covid-19 vaccine manufactured there. 

However, former Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Milton Lum pointed out that with China’s population of 1.3 billion and over 90,000 positive Covid-19 cases, it will be difficult to rely on their vaccine.

It will be political suicide for the Chinese government not to make the vaccine available for its population first.

Former Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Milton Lum via CodeBlue
Dr Milton Lum asking a question at the Malaysian Healthcare Conference 2019 in Kuala Lumpur on March 7, 2019. (Credit: Facebook)

Meanwhile, director of Universiti Malaya’s Tropical Infectious Diseases Research and Education Centre Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar highlighted to CodeBlue that many factors have to be considered when choosing the right vaccine.

Cost-effectiveness, acceptability, target population, ease of deployment, storage needs, route of delivery, and potential long-term effects are just some of the things that come into play.

Currently, none of the current vaccines being developed have passed Phase Three of clinical trials yet. This means signing a direct deal this early would be a huge risk.


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