KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia will receive its first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines over the weekend for a COVID-19 inoculation drive that is set to begin on Feb. 26, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Tuesday, adding that he will be the first to be vaccinated.
Malaysia aims to vaccinate at least 80% of its 32 million people within a year as it pushes to revive an economy that, slammed by coronavirus-related curbs, recorded its worst slump since the Asian Financial Crisis over two decades ago.
Having reported a total of over 260,000 coronavirus cases, including 975 deaths, Malaysia is the third worst hit country in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and the Philippines.
“This comprehensive (vaccination) programme is aimed at ensuring herd immunity in the community so that we can stop the spread of COVID-19 infections and bring an end to the pandemic,” Muhyiddin said at the launch of a handbook setting out Malaysia’s vaccination programme.
According to the handbook, Malaysia has secured a total of 66.7 million vaccine doses, including 32 million from Pfizer and BioNTech – enough to cover 110% of its population.
It has also reached supply agreements with Britain’s AstraZeneca, Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, and China’s Sinovac Biotech and CanSino Biologics.
So far, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use in Malaysia. The rest are still awaiting regulatory approval.
The first phase of Malaysia’s vaccination drive will run from February to April, and involve 300,000 medical and 200,000 non-medical frontline workers – including politicians, security and welfare officers, Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters after the launch.
Malaysia’s cabinet has also agreed to prepare a special injury scheme to compensate people who experience serious side-effects after receiving the vaccine, Khairy added.
“We will also have protocols in place if excess doses are not used. We will be giving doses to security personnel and people volunteering at the (vaccine delivery) centres so there is no wastage,” Khairy said.
(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan, Writing by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Ed Davies, Himani Sarkar & Simon Cameron-Moore)