KUALA LUMPUR (July 14): Duopharma Biotech Bhd and Pharmaniaga Holdings Bhd will be undertaking the fill and finish processes for the Covid-19 vaccine, once a vaccine is developed, said Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
He said Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has agreed for the facilities of the two companies to be utilised for that purpose, noting that the main challenge for the production of the vaccine is the finishing process.
"We will be purchasing the vaccine overseas, either from China, the US or the UK, in bulk, and we will be doing the bottling process here," he said in a press conference in Parliament.
Khairy explained that the two companies were chosen as both are government-linked — Duopharma is owned by Permodalan Nasional Bhd and Pharmaniaga is owned by Boustead Holdings Bhd — and currently have unused capacity that can be directed towards this purpose.
He said this is also to ensure that Malaysia does not need to entirely rely on other countries for the vaccine, with the country to offer fill and finish facilities for other nations as well.
"We have been in discussions with the Chinese government about the development of vaccines and they have reached the stage of clinical trials. Once the Ministry of Health is comfortable that the Chinese vaccines are safe, then we can begin talking to the Chinese about bulk purchasing.
"They have expressed interest to do their clinical trials in Malaysia, but we are no longer considered because there are simply not many Covid-19 cases here," he said.
Asked on the cost of investment needed to prepare and operate the fill and finish facilities, initial discussions with Pharmaniaga and Duopharma showed that there will be "minimal investment" needed, the minister said.
He added that the existing lines can be repurposed for Covid-19 vaccines and that the government will have a better idea of the costs involved when an actual vaccine is developed.
Meanwhile, Khairy said the government is also working on improving Malaysia's capabilities in developing human vaccines to ensure vaccine security and self-reliance, especially in the event that another pandemic comes up in the future.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that this is a particularly important area for Malaysia to develop, pointing out that other neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Indonesia already have these capabilities.
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