Malaysia starts rollout of China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine
Malaysia on Thursday started to inoculate its people with the COVID-19 vaccine made by the Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech as it pressed ahead with its national vaccination drive.
Malaysia's Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin became the first recipient of Sinovac's CoronaVac vaccine in Malaysia, who received the jab at the Rembau Hospital in Negeri Sembilan state.
Khairy, who is also the coordinating minister for Malaysia's national COVID-19 immunization program, was joined by 10 other frontline workers to receive the Sinovac vaccine.
Khairy told a press conference following his shot that he was feeling well.
The minister stressed that the Sinovac vaccine had been used in many countries and by state leaders including Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"This proves that many other countries recognized the safety, efficacy and stability of the vaccine for use and to be administered to their people," he said.
He noted that the Sinovac vaccine passed the requirements of Malaysia's National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) and encouraged the public to participate in the government's national immunization program.
He also said that the Sinovac vaccine has a handling temperature of between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, making it easier to transport, store and roll out compared to other vaccines which are more demanding in their handling.
"So I want to tell the Malaysians, that if you get your appointment and you go to your vaccination center and that the vaccination center is giving you the Sinovac vaccine, please take it. It's a safe and good vaccine," he said.
One of the frontline workers receiving the Sinovac vaccine, Mohd Ismeth Abdullah of the Rembau district fire and rescue department said he felt fine after his shot and encouraged the public to sign up for the vaccination program.
"After taking the vaccine, I am feeling fine. Even during the jab there was no pain or anything and after being monitored by the doctor, there are no side effects. I ask the public to register for the vaccination," he said.
Malaysia received a batch of finished Sinovac vaccines doses from China on Monday after Malaysia's regulators gave the vaccine a conditional approval. Another shipment is expected later this month.
Sinovac has also inked a partnership with Malaysia's leading pharmaceutical company Pharmaniaga to provide 14 million doses of its CoronaVac vaccine, which will go through a fill and finish process in Malaysia. The first delivery of the Sinovac vaccines in bulk arrived in Malaysia on February 27.
The Sinovac vaccine is the second COVID-19 vaccine for use in Malaysia's vaccination drive after the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.
The Malaysian government has planned to inoculate at least 80 percent of its over 31 million population in the national immunization program started in February, with 20 percent of the population being expected to receive the Sinovac vaccine.
According to the plan, Malaysia's vaccination program to go through February 2022 will be conducted in three phases, with the first phase for frontline workers covering about half a million people, the second phase for high-risk groups and the third phase for adults aged 18 and above.
On Thursday, Malaysia's health ministry reported 1,213 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the country's total tally to 328,466.
Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press statement that six of the new cases were imported and the 1,207 others were local transmissions.
Another three deaths from the coronavirus epidemic were reported on Thursday, raising Malaysia's COVID-19 related death toll to 1,223.
An additional 1,503 COVID-19 patients were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries to 312,461 or 95.1 percent of all cases in the Southeast Asian country.
Of the remaining 14,782 active cases, 155 people are being held in intensive care units and 54 of those are in need of assisted breathing.