KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is in talks to buy 6.4 million doses of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine and wants to increase its purchases of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin said on Wednesday (Dec 23), as the country looks to beef up its arsenal against the pandemic.
The country is also in final discussions with two Chinese vaccine makers and drawing up plans to arrange ultra-cold storage in its tropical heat.
Malaysia is spending about US$500 million to buy enough vaccine doses to inoculate 26.5 million people, or 82.8 per cent of its population. It has so far got enough doses to inoculate 40 per cent of its people.
It has already bought vaccines from American drugmaker Pfizer and Britain's AstraZeneca, and expects to secure more from Chinese and Russian manufacturers, as well as from its participation in the global COVAX Facility, backed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The government had increased its vaccine supply targets to take into account risks that some vaccines may not be approved by regulators or if manufacturers failed to deliver, Mr Khairy told reporters.
"We want to have a little bit more of a buffer," he said.
In addition to the talks with Russia's Gamaleya Institute, the developer of the Sputnik V vaccine, Malaysia is also in final talks with Chinese manufacturers Sinovac Biotech and CanSino Biologics to purchase a total of 23.9 million doses of their vaccines.
The deals with the Chinese and Russian manufacturers will include cooperation with Malaysian companies to carry out fill-and-finish work, Mr Khairy said.
Malaysia has also secured 6.4 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine through COVAX, doubling the amount it had already agreed to purchase from the drugmaker.
The government is also in negotiations with Pfizer on an option to increase its purchase of vaccines to cover another 20 per cent of its population, Mr Khairy added.
Malaysia has purchased 12.8 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine so far, with the first shipment expected to arrive in February.
As a buffer, the country has begun talks with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson as well, Mr Khairy said.