Malaysia to Double AstraZeneca Vaccine Order Through Covax

Malaysia is set to secure an additional 6.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca Plc. vaccine via the global Covax facility, and is in talks with Pfizer Inc. on an option to boost its purchases, as the nation bolsters its fight against the pandemic.

The deal will see the nation doubling its order from the U.K.-based drugmaker, with the first batch to arrive in the second quarter of 2021, Science and Technology Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a televised briefing Wednesday.

The government is also in final negotiations with China’s Sinovac for 14 million doses, CanSino Biologics for 3.5 million doses, and for 6.4 million shots of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine made by the Gamaleya Institute, Khairy said.

“The deals with Sinovac, Cansino, and Gamaleya will involve local companies that have been identified based on their ability to work together and to provide fill finish manufacturing capacity for the vaccines,” he said.

Malaysia is struggling to stem a fresh wave of cases that emerged in September and threatens a nascent economic recovery. Daily infections hit a record 2,234 on Dec. 10, with cases erupting at facilities of companies including Top Glove Corp. and Karex Bhd., the world’s biggest maker of condoms. The nation added 1,348 new virus cases on Wednesday.

The country is spending $504 million to buy enough shots to cover 26.5 million people, or about 80% of its population. The government has already secured 12.8 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech SE in a deal signed last month, and on Tuesday announced a pact to obtain 6.4 million doses directly from AstraZeneca.

Malaysia has negotiated with Pfizer an option to boost its purchases to cover another 20% of its population, and is in talks with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, Khairy said.

“I won’t rule out the possibility that we will increase our orders slightly,” he said. “Johnson & Johnson is also a single shot. We like single shot, for obvious reasons. So we are still looking at that.”

Other points from the briefing:

  • Malaysia to talk to Pfizer to ensure changes made to its vaccine to tackle the new strain that has emerged in the U.K. will also reflect in the nation’s contract
  • Storage for Pfizer vaccines “won’t be an issue” because not all 12 million doses will arrive together. Hospitals picked by the health ministry as primary vaccination centres will be equipped with ultra-low freezers
  • The offer from the United Arab Emirates to gift 500,000 doses is government-to-government in nature
    • “I haven’t seen anything in black and white yet, it’s just something that I’ve heard. The position of the government is that even if it is in the form of a gift, it will still have to be subject to regulatory approvals.”

(A previous version of this story corrected spelling of Russian vaccine developer in third paragraph.)

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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