KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin became the first person in Malaysia to receive a Covid-19 vaccine shot on Wednesday (Feb 24), as the country rolled out its nationwide vaccination campaign two days earlier than scheduled.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin received the first of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a public clinic in Malaysia's administrative capital of Putrajaya.
The second person to be inoculated was frontliner Clement Marai Francis, a driver for the Putrajaya clinic.
The Health Ministry's director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah - who has been the face of Malaysia's coronavirus response - was the third individual to receive the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Mr Muhyiddin and Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham received their vaccines within 20 minutes of arriving at the clinic in a publicly broadcasted event that was aimed at showing Malaysians the steps for vaccination.
After registration, the individuals were briefed about the vaccine in a separate room, before proceeding to receive their jabs.
Vaccinated individuals will then be asked to wait in an observation room for at least 15 minutes, where they will be monitored for any side-effects.
Mr Muhyiddin had volunteered to be the first to receive the vaccine shots in order to build public confidence in the inoculation process. A survey by the Health Ministry in December last year showed one-third of Malaysians remained sceptical of vaccines and worried about side effects.
Malaysia had initially planned to start its mass vaccination campaign on Friday, but with the vaccines arriving ahead of schedule on Sunday, the authorities brought forward the start date of the vaccination exercise, which is expected to last up to a year.
Malaysia aims to inoculate close to 83 per cent of its 33 million population.
It 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 from May.
All vaccines will be made available for free, including for foreign workers, expatriates, refugees and undocumented migrants.
The first batch of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, the United States-German collaboration, consisted of 312,390 doses which arrived on Sunday. Another 182,520 doses are scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.
The country 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 a total of 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 last week that 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.
Malaysia will administer the two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 21 days apart, as recommended by the vaccine manufacturer.
The vaccine, which needs to be stored at temperatures of minus 70 deg C, will be administered to front-liners all across the country.
Malaysia had spent weeks preparing for the storage and delivery of the vaccine, with local energy firm Tenaga Nasional Berhad giving the assurance that there will be no power disruption at any of the vaccine storage facilities.