Malaysia's vaccination plan may be delayed as 'pharmaceutical firms prioritise rich nations', says minister

Phase three of Malaysia's vaccination programme could be delayed if vaccine supplies do not arrive.
Phase three of Malaysia's vaccination programme could be delayed if vaccine supplies do not arrive.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK0 - Phase three of Malaysia's vaccination programme, which is supposed to start this month, could be delayed if vaccine supplies do not arrive, said Mr Khairy Jamaluddin, the minister in charge of the plan.

"Phase three is supposed to start in May. But I don't know if we have enough supplies. We will make an announcement on that," said the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister on Wednesday (May 5).

He said that the slow pace of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Plan was not the government's fault, but blamed pharmaceutical companies for prioritising rich countries.

"We gave appointments to more than 260,000 people in one day. It's not that we can't do it fast, but it's the supply of vaccines that are slow.

"Pharmaceutical companies prioritise rich countries and give them deals which were not offered to developing countries," he said.

"That is something that the international community will have to discuss - not just about managing Covid-19 but also in terms of future pandemic management," he added.

Mr Khairy acknowledged that many Malaysians want to be vaccinated, but there simply is not enough stock currently.

He said that there would be more slots for vaccination from June, as the richer countries would by then had inoculated most of their citizens.

He likened the situation from the tragedy of the Titanic ocean liner and the hit movie based on it.

"From a scene in Titanic - the guys in low-class (cabins) are waiting for lifeboats, while the guys in the rich cabins have already escaped on lifeboats. This is what's happening," he added.

Later this month, 1.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Covax facility are set to arrive.

Another 610,000 doses are expected to arrive in June, followed by about 410,000 in July, coming directly from AstraZeneca.

In August and September, another batch of 1.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are due to arrive.