Look into vaccine distribution ventures by non-healthcare firms, Pharmaniaga tells govt

Look into vaccine distribution ventures by non-healthcare firms, Pharmaniaga tells govt
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For the time being, these companies are not allowed to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine to the general public, “due to the government's planned vaccination programme, (which is) focused on general public usage.”

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 2): Pharmaniaga Bhd, which is set to supply the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine to the government, wants the authorities to look into the move by a growing number of non-healthcare firms to diversify into the Covid-19 vaccine distribution business.

“We want to avoid any confusion. Hence, we hope the government looks into this matter seriously, and we hope the public can get the right information," the group’s managing director Datuk Zulkarnain Md Eusop said in response to a question during a virtual media briefing today.

Zulkarnain, however, noted that for the time being, these companies are not allowed to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine to the general public, “due to the government's planned vaccination programme, (which is) focused on general public usage”.

Among non-healthcare firms that plan to distribute Covid-19 vaccines in anticipation of a high demand for the product are Solution Group Bhd, Bintai Kinden Corp Bhd, Ho Wah Genting Bhd, My EG Services Bhd, Yong Tai Bhd and Metronic Global Bhd. 

The government has denied allegations that ‘middlemen’ were involved in its Covid-19 vaccine procurement process. 

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

However, Khairy clarified that any local company is free to negotiate with international companies to be their agent or distributor of Covid-19 vaccines in Malaysia.

"We cannot control if they want to make a commercial arrangements with other vaccine manufacturers from outside of Malaysia. But they must get the necessary approvals from Malaysia's regulators," he had said.

The government has set a target of vaccinating 80% of Malaysia’s population of 32 million people by the first quarter of 2022, with the cost of procuring the Covid-19 vaccine estimated at RM3 billion.

Putrajaya is reported to have secured the supply of Covid-19 vaccines for 40% of the population (12.8 million people) through joint agreements with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and AstraZeneca, and through the World Health Organisation-backed Covax initiative.   

Additionally, Pharmaniaga and Duopharma Biotech Bhd signed agreements with the Ministry of Health last month for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines. Pharmaniaga will be supplying 12 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine, while Duopharma Biotech will be supplying 6.4 million doses of the Russian-developed "Sputnik V" vaccine.

Pharmaniaga’s share price closed two sen or 0.41% lower at RM4.89 today, bringing a market capitalisation of RM1.28 billion. The counter saw 219,800 shares traded.

S Kanagaraju