PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Covid-19 vaccine in development in Malaysia is expected to be ready in 2024, and it is also being designed as a booster shot, said Institute for Medical Research (IMR) director Tahir Aris.
"Those who are fully vaccinated may need booster shots to stay protected, and they may even need it yearly," Dr Tahir told The Star newspaper during a tour of the IMR laboratory in Setia Alam.
"Such a move is important to continue our defence against the coronavirus. Malaysia should not rely wholly on imported vaccine supplies."
He said the vaccine also took into account variants of concern such as the highly infectious Delta strain.
"We are hoping this vaccine will be effective against these emerging variants," he added.
Dr Tahir said the project's progress has been positive and the inactivated vaccine would undergo pre-clinical trials involving animals in August at the Veterinary Research Institute facility in Ipoh, Perak.
"The tests will take around six months before we can move forward with clinical trials involving humans next year," he said. "We hope that the vaccine will be ready in 2024."
The IMR, which is under the Health Ministry, is working on two types of Covid-19 vaccines: one using mRNA technology and the other using the inactivated vaccine approach.
The institute is working with experts from Universiti Putra Malaysia and the Veterinary Research Institute, which is under the Veterinary Services Department.
Whether the vaccine will require one or two doses will be known only in the later stages of its development.
Dr Tahir said he hopes Malaysia's Covid-19 vaccines would match the quality of those produced overseas.
"The initiative to develop the Covid-19 vaccine goes beyond the current pandemic, as it will prepare Malaysia in case of future outbreaks," he said. "We also need to develop young researchers in this field for the benefit of the nation."
It was reported that a budget of RM3.1 million (S$1 million) was approved for the development of Covid-19 vaccines for laboratory and animal studies only. Extra funding will have to be applied for to fund the pre-clinical and clinical studies.
Malaysia administered 217,807 Covid-19 vaccine doses on Saturday (July 3), with 141,140 people receiving their first dose of the vaccines while a further 76,667 completed their inoculation, said the Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply.
In a post on Twitter on Sunday, the committee said this means 8,800,700 Covid-19 vaccine doses have been given since the national programme began.
To date, 6,261,014 people, or 19.2 per cent of those eligible, have received at least one dose of the vaccine. A total of 2,539,686 people, or 7.8 per cent of those eligible, had been given two doses of the vaccines and completed their inoculations to date.