PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia will begin receiving 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in June under a direct procurement exercise, said the coordinating minister for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, Mr Khairy Jamaluddin.
"Subsequent deliveries will come every month," he said at a press conference after launching the Corporate Collaboration for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme on Wednesday (March 31), an event that was also broadcast on social media.
Mr Khairy, who is also the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, assured the public that the country's AstraZeneca vaccine supply under the World Health Organisation-backed Covax programme will not be affected as its supply comes from SK Bioscience, a manufacturer in South Korea, and not from India's Serum Institute of India (SII).
He said this in response to a question that India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, had temporarily put a hold on exports of AstraZeneca's vaccine manufactured by SII.
Last year, Malaysia signed a deal to procure 6.4 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine.
On its website, AstraZeneca said it would deliver up to three billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine across the globe by the end of 2021 - 18 months after the company first joined hands with the University of Oxford to develop and manufacture the vaccine.
Separately, in an effort to encourage greater uptake for Covid-19 vaccines, Mr Khairy said the government is collaborating with Pos Malaysia, Grab Malaysia, Parkson Corporation, Living Minds and St John's Ambulance to raise awareness of vaccinations and to encourage more people to sign up.
"The more people involved in convincing the public to register, (through) the counters they see, the more influencers they hear, the more flyers they read, should these contribute towards increasing registration numbers, " he said.
Pos Malaysia, Mr Khairy said, would send fliers door to door, with emphasis on rural areas and states where vaccine registrations are low.
In the government's collaboration with Grab, Mr Khairy said the Grab app would have a direct link to the MySejahtera app to make the vaccine registration process easier, as well as to map out the vaccination centres to ensure those who have an appointment would find it easy to get e-hailing services to and from their house.
Parkson, meanwhile, will set up vaccination registration counters in 20 of its stores, and St John's Ambulance will be setting up similar counters in 15 locations during its blood drive campaign from March 28 to May 30.
Living Minds, a local sports marketing company, will enlist 12 footballers under its management to become vaccination ambassadors.
Meanwhile, Mr Khairy also said as more countries are starting to give special exemptions to individuals who have been fully vaccinated, the government was considering coming up with similar initiatives.
"The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is coming up with new regulations for people who have been fully vaccinated.
"In Malaysia, we are starting to think about what will be allowed for people who have received two doses of the vaccine compared to those who have not received any vaccination.
"Hopefully, this will be an incentive for people to come forward to be vaccinated, " he said, adding that it was not necessary at the moment to force the public to be vaccinated, or have a deadline for registration.
"It is still a matter of continuous engagement and communication with the public."