Cheaper Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine costs due to bottling in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, 12 Jan 2021:

The government is paying less for the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Sinovac of China as the bottling process will be carried out in Malaysia, said Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said Pharmaniaga Bhd would be overseeing the bottling process for the vaccine, which is expected to be ready for distribution by end-March.

“I reiterate that the cost of this vaccine is cheaper as it will be bottled here and not in China; if (bottled) in China the cost is much higher.

“Pharmaniaga has been entrusted with the task of overseeing the bottling process and the cost was presented to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and they have agreed to the price mentioned,” he told reporters after attending a ceremony for signing an agreement between Pharmaniaga and Sinovac for bulk supply of the vaccine. Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba and Senior Minister of Defence Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob also witnessed the signing.

Khairy said Pharmaniaga was tasked with managing the bottling process as the company has the capacity to implement it according to the set guidelines.

The agreement is for the supply of 14 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to be carried out for fill and finish activity.

Khairy said the agreement between Pharmaniaga and Sinovac was a private initiative. “We have facilitated this because we have given an indication to Pharmaniaga that we are interested in the Sinovac vaccine. Now the government’s procurement (of) part of it, hopefully, will be concluded by next week.”

Khairy, however, declined to disclose detailed information on the procurement of the vaccine as he is bound by the non-disclosure agreement with the vaccine manufacturer.

Phamaniaga has the capacity to manufacture two million doses of Covid-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Life Sciences Co Ltd per month beginning March this year.

Group managing director Datuk Zulkarnain Md Eusope said the vaccine would be the first to be manufactured in Malaysia at the small volume injectable high-tech plant owned by Pharmaniaga’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Pharmaniaga LifeSciences Sdn Bhd, in Puchong.

He said the group would invest RM3 million to retrofit the plant to enable the production of the vaccine.

“We are very confident in carrying out the task successfully because our technical experts have been working on the setting up of a halal vaccine plant in Malaysia since 2017.

“When Covid-19 spread around the world early last year, we immediately channelled our team to work with our global partners, including Sinovac on the fill and finish manufacturing activity and technology transfer to speed up the availability of vaccines against the pandemic.”

Khairy assured the vaccine programme for Covid-19 would be carried out within the first quarter of 2021.

“We are not too late and too early. We can design our immunisation programme that can reduce a lot of wastage and it will be rolled out as efficiently as possible.”

Meanwhile, Khairy said the government would seek halal status for the Sinovac vaccine prior to its distribution. “Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) has verified the halal status of this vaccine and we will do the same with Jakim (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia). We will verify that this vaccine is safe for use by Muslims.”

– Bernama