KOTA BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia will stop administering the Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by Sinovac beyond its current stock, its health minister said on Thursday (July 15), citing a sufficient supply of vaccine doses from Pfizer-BioNTech.
Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said at a news conference the decision to stop administering the Chinese-manufactured Sinovac doses was mainly down to vaccine supplies, and that other states will follow eastern state Kelantan's lead and predominantly offer the Pfizer vaccine.
"For Pfizer, we have ordered a total of around 45 million doses while for Sinovac we ordered only around 16 million doses. So it started in Kelantan and soon other states will follow," he said.
"About half of the 16 million have already been distributed, so the rest will be used to cover second doses. For those who have yet to be vaccinated, they will receive the Pfizer vaccine."
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah corroborated the move, saying Pfizer made up the majority of Malaysia's National Immunisation Programme's portfolio.
"Basically it is because we have sufficient supply of the Pfizer vaccines, of more than 44 million doses, so now the main vaccine that will be used is the Pfizer vaccine," he said.
Malaysia has fully vaccinated 12.3 per cent, or 4 million, of its 32 million population. At least 26.5 per cent of the population have received at least one dose, officials say.
The South-east Asian country has secured enough Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to cover 70 per cent of the population, compared to 16 million doses of Sinovac's shot.
The Kelantan Health Department's director had said earlier on Thursday that it will stop dispensing the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine and replace it with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at all the state's vaccination centres by the end of July.
Kelantan health director Dr Zaini Hussin said supplies of the Sinovac vaccine would be halted at the end of the month.
"From Sunday (July 18), all vaccination centres in Kelantan will only be supplied with enough Sinovac vaccines for second doses," he was reported as saying by Malaysian daily Harian Metro on Thursday.
He declined to explain why the state would stop using the Sinovac vaccine but said it did not involve a lack of supply of the vaccines to Kelantan.
"After this, Kelantan will only use the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine," he was quoted as saying.
Kelantan's Dr Zaini was also reported by Bernama news agency as saying that should the federal government supply the state with Sinovac or any other Covid-19 vaccines in the future, they would still be used.
The announcement to stop using Sinovac's inactivated virus vaccine comes amid increasing concern over its efficacy against new and more contagious variants of the coronavirus.
Neighbouring Thailand this week said it would use the AstraZeneca vaccine as a second dose for those who received the Sinovac shot, while Indonesia is considering a booster shot for those who received the two-dose Sinovac course.
Other vaccines approved in Malaysia include those of AstraZeneca, China's CanSino Biologic, and the Janssen vaccine of Johnson & Johnson.
Malaysia also plans on Friday to announce its decision on whether to add the vaccine of China's Sinopharm to its stable, officials said.