KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 21): Malaysia has now joined the global community in a more intense fight against the coronavirus with the first arrival today of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that will set into motion the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.
This first batch of 312,390 doses of the long-awaited vaccine arrived in Malaysia from Singapore, the hub for distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine to Asia-Pacific countries, by air and overland.
A special Malaysia Airlines flight, MH604, in the Jalur Gemilang (national flag) livery, flew in two unit load devices (ULD) of the vaccine at 10.07am to the KL International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, about 50km from the city centre.
Part of the first batch was also transported overland from Singapore to Johor, arriving in Senai at 2.45pm.
At KLIA, the ULD were unloaded from the cargo section of the aircraft and loaded into a truck belonging to logistics company DHL at the Advanced Cargo Centre (ACC).
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba; Coordinating Minister for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme Khairy Jamaluddin, who is also Science, Technology and Innovation Minister; Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong and Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah were at KLIA during the arrival of the vaccine and until it was transported away for storage.
This first batch of vaccine is destined, by air and road, for 16 DHL storage centres, six of them in Selangor, four in Johor, three in Kuala Lumpur, two in Penang and one in Putrajaya. The vaccine for Penang was flown from Hong Kong via Singapore and arrived on the island at 6pm today.
All movement of the vaccine is carried out under heavy police escort.
On Wednesday, two days earlier than originally scheduled, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will receive his first jab of the vaccine. This will take place at the Putrajaya Health Clinic after the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah will also receive his first jab on Wednesday, at the same clinic, along with several medical and non-medical frontliners. The Pfizer vaccine has to be administered in two jabs 21 days apart.
To date, 571,802 frontliners have registered for the vaccination programme, 57.3% of them being medical and health personnel and 42.7 per cent from other sectors like the Malaysian Armed Forces, Royal Malaysia Police, Malaysian Volunteer Department, Prisons Department, Royal Malaysian Customs Department, and Fire and Rescue Department.
The government will try to also accommodate some teachers, especially those with morbidities, and journalists in the first of the three phases of the immunisation programme. Vaccination is free of charge for all people in Malaysia, citizens and foreigners alike.
The first phase of immunisation is scheduled from Feb 26 to April for frontline personnel, including from the Health Ministry, Malaysian Armed Forces, Royal Malaysia Police, Civil Defence Force and Malaysian Volunteer Department (Rela).
The second phase is scheduled from April to August for senior citizens aged 60 and above and vulnerable groups with morbidity issues, as well as persons with disabilities.
The third phase is to be from May 2021 to February 2022 for those aged 18 and above.
The Health Ministry has identified and prepared about 600 vaccination stations nationwide, among them health clinics as well as government and private hospitals. Each station is to have seven vaccinators.
The efficiency and preparedness of the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) and the Pharmacy Division of the Health Ministry in ensuring the smooth delivery and receipt of the vaccine had made it possible for the immunisation programme to be launched earlier.
The Sinovac vaccine is scheduled to arrive on Feb 27. It is still awaiting NPRA approval. The delivery schedule of the AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be available next month.
Now that the vaccines are beginning to arrive, all eyes are on the registration for vaccination by the public, which is scheduled to commence on March 1. Khairy said registration will be ongoing until herd immunity is attained when 70% to 80% of the population is immunised.
"Vaccines don’t save lives. Vaccinations do. Now that the vaccines have arrived, we need to get them into our arms as quickly as possible. It’s game time. #LindungDiriLindungSemua (Protect Oneself, Protect Everyone)," he tweeted.
Dr Noor Hisham was somewhat emotional when he said the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine was symbolic of all the people’s blood, sweat, tears and sacrifices.
“It's a new dawn, a new frontier, different battlefront and an additional strategy to fight against the virus, giving a glimmer of hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel. May (the) Almighty always bless and protect us all, give us strength and lighten our burden. Thank you to the frontliners and workforce in KKM (Health Ministry) for the dedication and perseverance.
“(People from) all walks of life must come together and fight against this virus. It has been (an) exhausting more-than-a-year marathon. It has affected our lives and livelihoods with months of sleepless nights.
“How not to be emotional when there is a glimmer of hope to see the end,” he said, more or less summing it up on behalf of the people.
As the National Security Council has kept reminding the people constantly, even after the vaccine has arrived, the best vaccine is still how the people act, by being disciplined and continuing to comply with the SOPs in the new norm.
Like Dr Noor Hisham says “no one is safe until everyone is safe”.
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