KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 — The delayed delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to Malaysia, allegedly due to hoarding by the world’s richest nations, has prompted some state governments to try and secure their own supply independently of the federal administration.
States such as Sarawak, Penang and Selangor have pressed Putrajaya to allow them to buy or accept donated vaccines to complement the National Immunisation Programme (NIP).
While the federal government has since given its approval for both methods — so long as the vaccines are approved by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) — NIP coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin has expressed doubt that such efforts would be able to overcome global supply constraints facing Putrajaya.
These are some of the means taken by state administrations in their efforts to vaccinate their respective populations.
In April, Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas asked the federal government to supply the state with the single-dose CanSinoBIO Covid-19 vaccine as it is suitable to supply to those living in remote or interior areas of the state.
Uggah said that the state asked for at least 600,000 to 800,000 doses of the CanSinoBIO vaccines.
On April 23, Uggah said Khairy had given approval for Sarawak to proceed only to note, just three days later, that the NPRA has not yet approved CanSinoBIO for local use.
On May 19, Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg also announced that the state will purchase some 500,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine as the move was recently approved by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
He said the state received Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s approval to order up to a million doses.
Overall, Sarawak intends to vaccinate some 2.2 million residents by August of this year, ahead of the NIP’s schedule, but this is still dependent on when the vaccines could be supplied.
On April 4, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Hasni Mohammad announced that the state will launch an app and website for its own vaccination plan dubbed Johor Immunity Planning System (IMMU Plan).
Currently, IMMU is open for Malaysians working in Singapore and open to those who meet the stipulated eligibility requirements such as having a valid working permit in the republic, a letter from the employer confirming that the applicant is working in the republic or a valid employment offer.
Hasni stated that at least 100,000 persons are expected to register to this app despite the borders remaining closed.
On May 21, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow announced that the state government will use its own funds to purchase additional Covid-19 vaccines and write to the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry for approval.
However, this came off the back of a supposed donation from Sabahan businessmen claiming that he wished to donate two million doses of Sinovac vaccine to the state.
The whole controversy had caused friction between the Pakatan Harapan Penang state government and the PN federal administration, after the former had accused the latter of blocking them from receiving the donated vaccines.
The businessman in question, Yong Chee Kong, had reportedly sent a letter to the Penang state government, claiming to be the managing director of Xintai Development Enterprise Ltd and wanting to donate the vaccine in question.
However, Khairy later described the offer as a scam as checks with Sinovac Biotech Ltd and its local distributor found no evidence of any inquiry or purchase related to Yong’s offer.
Chow has since apologised for the incident and promised to cooperate with the police on the investigations.
The Selangor state government announced May 17 that employers who wish to purchase Covid-19 vaccines for their staff could register their interest with the state government through their SELangkah application.
State executive councillor for public health Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud said the state was finalising its vaccine procurement and Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari would announce this later.
Dr Siti did not explain which vaccine the state would acquire and at what quantities, only that these would be NPRA-approved.
Employers in the state who are interested in registering to receive these vaccines can do so at https://vax.selangkah.my/ .
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