Malaysian states now allowed to buy approved Covid-19 vaccines amid supply bottlenecks

Malaysia aims to achieve herd immunity by vaccinating 80 per cent of the population by the end of the year. PHOTO: AFP

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The state governments of Selangor and Sarawak are free to secure their own supply of vaccines, provided the vaccines have been approved for use in Malaysia, said Mr Khairy Jamaluddin, the minister in charge of the country's Covid-19 immunisation programme.

He said on Wednesday (April 21) that he has also given positive responses to state governments which have expressed intentions to procure Covid-19 vaccines on their own.

His comments followed a statement by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday (April 20) that the Selangor and Sarawak governments were facing delays in obtaining approvals for procuring their own supply of vaccines.

Just over one million of Malaysia's nearly 33 million population, around 3 per cent, have been vaccinated at least once since the inoculation programme started on Feb 24, with the supply of vaccines expected to accelerate in June.

Malaysia aims to achieve herd immunity by vaccinating 80 per cent of the population by the end of the year.

"In my discussion with the Selangor menteri besar, he verbally mentioned Selangor's plans to procure vaccines.

"I have responded positively, but until now I have not received any official request from the state government," said Mr Khairy, the coordinating minister for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.

Mr Khairy said in a statement that he had arranged several engagements with Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Amar Douglas Uggah Embas on the matter.

"I told him that the federal government's supply of vaccines is enough for the vaccination programme's implementation in Sarawak.

"He too requested that his state government be allowed to procure vaccines, and I have given a positive response with the condition that the vaccine to be procured must be registered with the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA).

"This is because the type of vaccine that Sarawak wished to procure was still being evaluated by NPRA," he said.

Datuk Seri Anwar in his statement said he was "disturbed at the level of inefficiency on the part of ministerial leadership" in regards to the vaccination programme in Malaysia.

The chief of opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan had demanded that the federal government support the efforts of state governments and the private sector to procure approved vaccines. He also called for an independent investigation by Parliament into the causes of procurement bottlenecks.

Mr Khairy, the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, in his statement also responded to Mr Anwar's statement that less than 3 per cent of Malaysians have been vaccinated against Covid-19 to date.

"The immunisation programme is being carried out following the schedule of vaccine delivery given by the vaccine manufacturing companies. This schedule had been announced beforehand.

"I have also explained that according to the government's forecast, our vaccine supplies will accumulate rapidly starting June, " he said.

Mr Khairy said he is open to criticisms and questions in response to Mr Anwar's call for an investigation into the vaccine procurement and administration process.

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