The first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines for Malaysia touched down at Kuala Lumpur International Airport yesterday morning, with another consignment making its way overland from Singapore to Johor in the afternoon.
The 312,390 doses had made several stops since leaving the Pfizer plant in Belgium, including in Leipzig, Germany and Singapore, which is the Asia-Pacific distribution hub for the much-awaited Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Some 16 secret locations nationwide will hold the vaccines, including four in Johor which received 73,710 doses through the Causeway.
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who is also tasked with leading the national Covid-19 immunisation programme (NIP), told reporters yesterday that the vaccination roll-out will be brought forward to Wednesday from Friday, with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah the first to be inoculated.
"They will receive their first injections after the Cabinet meeting," Mr Khairy said.
Half a million front-liners, mostly healthcare workers who are at the heart of the nation's fight against the deadly pandemic, will be prioritised in the first phase of the NIP.
High-risk individuals will be next, before the rest of the adult population. The target is to inoculate at least 80 per cent of the population by February next year.
Initial reports indicate that Malaysia will administer between 75,000 and 150,000 doses per day.
A second batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines will arrive on Friday, and then at fortnightly intervals. China-made Sinovac vaccines will also begin arriving from Saturday, although it has not yet received Malaysian regulatory approval.
Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong told reporters that he has discussed with his Singapore counterpart, Mr Ong Ye Kung, a proposal for a "universal certification" for individuals who have completed their course of immunisation. Such certification would allow them to travel between the two countries, as well as to other countries in the region.
"This matter will be brought to Wisma Putra, to accept a certification along with reciprocating countries," Dr Wee said, referring to the Foreign Ministry's headquarters.
"The matter is being discussed. As the vaccination process is ongoing, we will follow up... possibly there will be no need to quarantine any more. This can revive the aviation industry in Malaysia and regionally," he added.
Logistics partner DHL said in a statement that a key challenge of transporting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines was the requirement for low temperatures of minus 80 deg C to minus 60 deg C. This meant that consignments were delivered in specially designed thermal shipper packaging customised by the manufacturer that included temperature and global positioning system trackers.
DHL Express Asia-Pacific chief executive Ken Lee said: "No effort is spared in ensuring that our well-established DHL Medical Express solution adheres to the stringent requirements of speed, quality, security and reliability when it comes to transporting these precious cargo."
Malaysia registered 3,297 new Covid-19 infections and five more deaths yesterday, bringing the total number of cases to 283,569 and 1,506 fatalities.
Vaccines for Malaysians cross Causeway
Police escorting a truck carrying one of Malaysia's first batches of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine as it arrived in Johor via the Causeway yesterday afternoon. Another consignment of the vaccines touched down at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in the morning. The shipments, totalling over 300,000 doses, will be stored in 16 undisclosed locations across Malaysia, including four in Johor. The vaccines have made several stops since leaving the Pfizer plant in Belgium, including in Germany and Singapore's Changi Airport, which is a distribution hub for the shots.