Malaysia’s government has confirmed it will begin a nationwide programme of Covid-19 vaccinations in February, with around 80 per cent of the country set to receive inoculations in the first phase. The vaccine, produced by Pfizer, will be administered to frontline health workers and authorities, before being expanded to cover the majority of the general population.
It has been confirmed that Pfizer will supply Malaysia with 12.8 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, providing immunity for around 20 per cent of the population. In addition to the Pfizer deal, Malaysia has signed an agreement with AstraZeneca for an additional 6.4 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccine, which will cover an additional 10 per cent of the population. The international Covid vaccine distribution alliance known as Covax will add another 10 per cent coverage. First in line among the general population will be groups deemed most at risk, including the elderly and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions.
According to Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, confidence in the new vaccine will be key to ensuring safety nationwide. To that end, the premier will be among the first to receive it, as confirmed in a recent statement: “to convince the people that the vaccine obtained is safe and effective, I will be among the first individuals to receive the Covid-19 vaccination,” said the PM in a speech that was televised just before Christmas.
Yassin’s government is currently finalising negotiations with other vaccine producers and distributors, with a view to extending coverage nationwide to 100 per cent. China’s Sinovac and CanSino are two possible candidates for the remaining doses of the vaccine, while Russia’s Gamaleya Institute is also likely to contribute.
When the first round begins next month, Malaysian officials will distribute enough doses of the vaccine to cover 26.5 million people (80 per cent of the population) at a cost of RM2.05 billion (US$675 million). The vaccines will be free to all who receive them. The news comes as a welcome relief to the tourism sector, which can begin to look to the future and plan for a safe revival in the coming months.