Frankly Speaking: Challenges of the Sinopharm vaccine

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on September 13, 2021 - September 19, 2021.
Frankly Speaking: Challenges of the Sinopharm vaccine
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Two Malaysian companies have secured the contract to supply the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine to this part of the world. It is one of the more expensive vaccines, widely used in rich countries and among royalty.

Duopharma Biotech Bhd sealed the deal with the Ministry of Health to supply the Sinopharm vaccine in Malaysia.

Apex Healthcare Bhd, meanwhile, secured the mandate to supply the Sinopharm vaccine to private clinics and hospitals in Singapore. Apex Healthcare’s partner for the Singapore venture is Innova Bio-Medical Pte Ltd.

Duopharma made it clear that there are no other parties involved in bringing in the Sinopharm vaccine into the country. Towards this end, it denied having any links to Bintai Kinden Corp Bhd, which also announced a collaboration to distribute the vaccine.

Bintai Kinden later clarified that it is in collaboration with a private company that is providing services to Duopharma to administer the vaccine. Bintai Kinden’s role is to complement the arrangement between Duopharma and the private company by providing the required storage and transport facilities to distribute and administer the vaccine to work sites.

Based on Bintai Kinden’s announcement, its target market is to provide mass vaccination at work sites.

But the question is, how big a demand is there for the Sinopharm vaccine? It is not cheap compared with other vaccines. Also, half of Malaysians have been fully vaccinated and 64.1% have received at least one dose.

There are not many segments left behind in the nationwide vaccination programme. In fact, vaccination centres are being closed because the need has been reduced.

Apex Healthcare’s Sinopharm distribution deal is equally challenging. Some 80% of Singapore’s population have been fully vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Apex Healthcare’s target market is to cater for those who are unable to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines on medical grounds. For starters, the company is looking to supply 31,600 doses.

Whether it can benefit from economies of scale is left to be seen.

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