Malaysia is expected to receive its first COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer in the first quarter of 2021 after signing a deal for 12.8 million doses from the US manufacturer, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Friday.
The deal is expected to cover 6.4 million Malaysians, or 20 percent of the population, with another 10 percent to be covered under Malaysia's participation in the global COVAX facility, backed by the World Health Organization.
Pfizer has agreed to deliver the first one million doses in the first quarter of 2021, with 1.7 million doses, 5.8 million and 4.3 million to follow in subsequent quarters, Muhyiddin said.
The vaccination programme would prioritise "high-risk groups... including frontliners, senior citizens, and those with non-communicable diseases, such as heart diseases, diabetes," he said during a televised news conference.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The Pfizer vaccine still requires approvals from regulator including the US Food and Drug Administration and Malaysia's Health Ministry before it can be distributed, Muhyiddin said.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.