Frankly Speaking: Private vaccine deals an unknown

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on January 18, 2021 - January 24, 2021.
Frankly Speaking: Private vaccine deals an unknown
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With the government securing an additional 12.2 million vaccine doses from Pfizer recently and Pharmaniaga Bhd’s deal with China’s Sinovac for 14 million shots, the mass inoculation drive is set to kick off next month.

Including the potential vaccines from Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute and China’s CanSino Biologics, the government will be able to achieve 80% of the immunisation needs for the country.

Where does this leave the vaccine deals of private companies?

Pharmaniaga and Duopharma Biotech Bhd have been identified by the government to undertake the fill-and-finish process for the vaccine. In view of the high demand for vaccines, non-healthcare-related companies — Solution Group Bhd, Bintai Kinden Corp Bhd, Ho Wah Genting Bhd, My EG Services Bhd and Yong Tai Bhd — are also diversifying into vaccine distribution.

But Metronic Global Bhd was quick to abort its deal with Taiwan’s Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp after the government said there would be no “middlemen” in the Covid-19 vaccine supply chain. 

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin described the arrangements done by the private companies as commercial deals that have nothing to do with the government.

Still, most of the companies have said their role is to complement and fill the vaccine supply gaps, particularly the urgent need of  manufacturing players. 

Will they be able to get the approval of the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency? 

The vaccination cost is also a factor for businesses grappling with the pandemic. As the vaccine will be given free to Malaysians by the government, businesses may not choose the vaccine supplied by the private sector.

The big question for the private companies that have announced forays into vaccine procurement is: Will these ventures actually bear fruit?

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