Putrajaya is stonewalling state government efforts to procure COVID-19 vaccines directly: Anwar

Putrajaya is stonewalling state government efforts to procure COVID-19 vaccines directly: Anwar

Malaysia opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur
FILE PHOTO: Malaysia opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File photo

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday (Apr 20) accused the federal government of stonewalling efforts by state governments and private sector to procure COVID-19 vaccines directly.

In a statement, Mr Anwar said several state governments, private businesses and foundations have sought to procure their own supply of National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency-approved vaccines. 

However, he noted that their efforts "have been met with delays and stonewalling by the responsible federal ministries". 

"The delays they have experienced are of great consequence," he said. 

Mr Anwar cited how the Selangor state government, governed by the Pakatan Harapan opposition coalition including Mr Anwar's PKR, had "waited for months to gain necessary approval" despite allocating funds to procure over 2 million doses for the people of Selangor. 

He added that the Sarawak state government has faced similar delays in obtaining government approvals for the vaccines. 

Mr Anwar also noted that private businesses and foundations have informed him that their efforts to procure approved vaccines have been "completely ignored" by the federal government. 

"The federal government's goal should be to ensure all Malaysians have access to safe and effective vaccine as soon as possible. However, the federal government does not need to be the entity which buys and administers every single dose," said Mr Anwar. 

"State governments have their own sophisticated procurement networks and abilities which may exceed the capacity of the federal government. There are private companies that are prepared to spend the money, even at premium, to vaccinate their own workers and families," he added. 

The PKR president said less than 3 per cent of Malaysians have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Tuesday, and the vaccination rate could be accelerated if supplies were channelled directly to the needy segments of society.

He added that there are organisations prepared to support vaccination efforts in local communities and people who are willing to pay for the jabs at private medical facilities. 

"If we are adopting an all-of-society approach, why can't we make use of the resources of the entire society?" he said. 

READ: 40 healthcare workers in Malaysia who had both doses of vaccine test positive for COVID-19

READ: COVID-19 cases among vaccinated healthcare workers in Malaysia 10 times lower, says Malaysian minister

Mr Anwar also called for the federal government to "immediately and completely support" the efforts of the state government and private sector to procure approved vaccines to accelerate the vaccination rate. 

He also demanded an independent investigation under the auspices of the parliament into the causes of the procurement bottlenecks that have been experienced by the federal government, state governments and private sector. 

"Efficient vaccine procurement is something that we should have been well prepared for months ago. Our current performance is inexcusable," said Mr Anwar. 

The Malaysia federal government kicked off its national COVID-19 immunisation programme in February. 

Coordinating minister for the programme Khairy Jamaluddin said the current vaccine deliveries to Malaysia were low because wealthier nations were cornering the market. 

He has, however, assured the public that the country would have enough supplies to vaccinate 80 per cent of its 32 million population by October.  

According to the Special Committee on COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee, a total of 451,237 individuals have received both doses of their vaccine shots as of Monday. 

About 726,400 other individuals received the first dose, bringing the total number of COVID-19 doses administered in the country to about 1.78 million.

About 9.05 million people have registered for the vaccination programme. 

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Source: CNA/am

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