Saifuddin: What took us so long to procure vaccines?

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The country’s Covid-19 vaccination rate could have been higher now if the government had acted faster in procuring vaccines, Kulim Bandar Baru MP Saifuddin Nasution said.

The PKR lawmaker, speaking at the special parliamentary meeting this morning, also questioned the government for waiting too long for approval from the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA).

“Western countries and other Asian nations have shown their procurement commitment even before the vaccines were put on sale. In our language, we call it ‘chop’. They booked the vaccines even before clinical tests were conducted,” he said.

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“We should have realised that competition is very high. It is competitive, but we were slow in acquiring the vaccines. We waited too long for the NPRA to say that we can obtain them.”

Saifuddin, however, praised co-ordinating minister for the national Covid-19 immunisation programme Khairy Jamaluddin for the increased vaccination rate in the country lately.

In March, NPRA, in addressing complaints that the government was slow to approve vaccines for use, said conditional approvals had already been fast-tracked since December last year.

It said it had been using a priority review registration mechanism since December 14 to ensure that the country could gain quick access to vaccines without sacrificing safety and quality.

It added that as a result, the evaluation period for registrations had been shortened by half, from 245 working days to 120 working days.

Prior to Saifuddin’s speech, Khairy said as of yesterday, 38.2% of the population or 12.5 million Malaysians have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Khairy, who is also science, technology and innovation minister, said of this figure, 18.1% of the population or 5.9 million people have completed their two-dose vaccination.

He said the total number of doses administered since the vaccination drive started is now 18.4 million.

Meanwhile, Saifuddin asked if the government was already looking for more vaccines following the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus.

He cited reports that other countries have begun looking for more supplies for the third dose.

“There is now a long-term Covid-19 vaccination programme following the new variants. Countries have begun procuring third doses, if need be, to fight these new viruses,” he said.

“As far as I know, we only have an engagement with Pfizer-BioNTech to procure supplies if there is a need for a third dose.

“I am not sure if we have similar engagements with other manufacturers.” – TMI