KUALA LUMPUR - The Malaysian minister in charge of Covid-19 inoculations Khairy Jamaluddin said he will refrain from being inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and will get a jab instead from one of the other vaccine providers to combat "selective vaccine hesitancy".
Mr Khairy, the Coordinating Minister for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, said he will be the first person to take the next vaccine that the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) has approved.
"I have been observing the views of the people. The prime minister, the health director-general and now many ministers and front-liners have taken Pfizer vaccine.
"So, the people have more confidence in Pfizer vaccine because the prime minister had taken the vaccine without having any side effects," said Mr Khairy, who is also the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister.
"The people are asking why are they all taking Pfizer, the good stuff, while the others are meant for the ordinary people.
"So, I have decided that I will take whatever vaccine that crosses the line, be it Sinovac, AstraZeneca or Sputnik V," he told a news conference on Saturday (Feb 27), as reported by Malaysiakini news site.
"I will take that as a demonstration of vaccine confidence and also my confidence in NPRA," he said.
Mr Khairy said there are Malaysians who wish to be inoculated with their choice of vaccine, but he said this was not possible due to logistics, The Star daily reported.
"We are seeing some doubts. There are those who really want the Pfizer vaccine or Sinovac... At the moment, the government's position is that (people need to) take whatever it is that has been approved.
"They (vaccines) are safe and efficacious," he said.
Malaysia began its inoculation drive on Wednesday, with Tan Sri Muhyiddin being the first to be vaccinated, followed by front-liner Clement Marai Francis, a driver for the Putrajaya clinic. The third person who was jabbed with the Pfizer vaccine was the Health Ministry's director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
Malaysia will vaccinate elected representatives, healthcare workers and other front-liners in the first phase that is expected to last until next month.
The second phase will involve at-risk groups, such as individuals with certain existing illnesses, and those above the age of 65.
The country aims to begin administering vaccines to the general populace, aged 18 and above, from May. Foreigners based in Malaysia, including undocumented migrants, will also be vaccinated for free at a later stage.
The Malaysian agency that approves vaccine usage, the NPRA, last month approved the registration of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The agency has also received applications for the use of the Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Sputnik vaccines in Malaysia.
The first batch of the CoronaVac vaccine, developed by China's Sinovac Life Sciences Co, arrived in Malaysia on Saturday, with the vaccine expected to be processed into more than 300,000 doses.
Malaysia has inked a deal to buy a total of 25 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which cover 39 per cent of its population.
It has also ordered 6.4 million doses from British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, signed a deal for 12 million doses from China's Sinovac, and another 6.4 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine from Russia.
The authorities said recently they were in the final stages of talks with US company Johnson & Johnson to procure its single-dose vaccine, which it aims to use on the vulnerable population, such as undocumented migrants.