KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government will procure new COVID-19 vaccines which are tailored to fight new strains of the virus, said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
The vaccines will be administered free of charge to high-risk groups such as the elderly and those with serious comorbidities, the Malaysian media quoted Mr Khairy as saying on Tuesday (Sep 13).
"A decision on this procurement will be announced later along with the vaccines for children under five," he said at a press conference after launching the Record Breaking COVID-19 Vaccination Report: Public-Private Partnership, according to Bernama.
Similarly, the vaccines for children under five will only be offered to immunocompromised and chronically ill toddlers, the minister said.
The New Straits Times quoted Mr Khairy as saying that Malaysia is in the midst of discussing the procurement with the vaccine manufacturers.
“Negotiations are starting now. We have an existing order with Pfizer and the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility that we didn't use fully.
“That means we bought more than we needed, so we are trying to change the order for doses with the updated formula,” he said.
The minister said Malaysia is currently in excess of about four million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, with some expiring at the end of the year, the Star reported.
He said that since the COVID-19 situation in Malaysia is under control, there is no need for another large-scale vaccination drive.
Data has shown that the lower-risk population, such as those in the younger age brackets, are sufficiently protected with their initial COVID-19 jabs and booster, he added.
The vaccines will be administered in government and private health facilities.
To kick-start the process, the health ministry will collect data on patients with comorbidities and high-risk children in Malaysia, Mr Khairy said.
“These data will be collected in the MOH’s database. They will help the ministry to procure enough vaccines,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.
To date, more than 72 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Malaysia. About 84 per cent of the population have had two doses and close to 50 per cent have received booster shots.
Last week, Mr Khairy announced that it is now optional to wear face masks indoors with premise owners allowed to decide whether to impose their own face mask requirements.
He said masks remain mandatory for those who are symptomatic and COVID-19 positive, as well as in public transport and healthcare facilities.