Malaysia’s Covid-19 Vaccine Hoped To Be Effective Against Variants
Singapore’s currently undergoing a period of relative peace with regards to Covid-19, with just 1 community case reported on Sunday (4 Jul).
However, our closest neighbour Malaysia is still in the throes of a bad outbreak, with just 19.6% of the population vaccinated.
As such, the country is now developing its own Covid-19 vaccine, partly so that it doesn’t have to rely on imported supplies.
Its scientists are currently working on 2 different types of vaccines amid hopes it will be ready by 2024.
Vaccine development a multi-agency effort
The vaccine is being developed by the Institute for Medical Research (IMR), which is under the Malaysian Ministry of Health, Malaysian newspaper The Star reported.
The institute is collaborating with scientists from Universiti Putra Malaysia and the Veterinary Research Institute (VRI).
IMR director Tahir Aris explained that developing a vaccine would help the country continue defending against the virus.
While the Malaysian Government is actively procuring vaccine supplies from overseas, it also needs to have some degree of self-reliance, as Dr Tahir told The Star,
Malaysia should not rely wholly on imported vaccine supplies.
Rather, he hopes the country’s own vaccines would match the quality of foreign-produced ones.
2 types of vaccines being worked on
While most vaccines currently available are of 1 type or another, the final identity of Malaysia’s vaccine isn’t confirmed yet.
Dr Tahir said they’re currently working on 2 different types so far.
The 2nd is the inactivated virus vaccine, which is similar to the Sinovac vaccine that’s available privately in Singapore.
Here’s a recap of the differences (info correct as of Mar):
They also don’t know yet whether the vaccine will require 1 or 2 doses, as this will only be known later.
Inactivated vaccine will go to trial soon
It seems like the research into the inactivated vaccine is further along, as Dr Tahir said it should go to pre-clinical trials in Aug.
These trials involving animals will take place at the VRI in Ipoh, Perak.
After the pre-clinical trials are done, which will take about 6 months, they should be able to start on clinical trials in 2022.
These will involve testing on humans.
As these trials will take some time, Dr Tahir hopes the vaccine will be ready in 2024.
Vaccine designed as booster shots
Obviously, Malaysia can’t wait till 2024 to vaccinate its citizens.
Thus, the vaccine they’re developing is also being designed to be a booster shot.
These may be needed by fully vaccinated people as often as every year, to continue their protection.
The development of the vaccine will help Malaysia prepare for future outbreaks, Dr Tahir said.
It’ll also help young researchers develop their skills in this field.
Vaccine taking variants into account
As for the Delta variant, which has been detected in 98 countries, Dr Tahir said the vaccine being developed is also taking it into account.
That’s along with other variants of concern flagged by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
As the higher transmissibility of these variants threatens to move the world into a more dangerous phase of the pandemic, he added,
We are hoping this vaccine will be effective against these emerging variants.
Malaysia records 6,045 cases on 4 Jul
An effective vaccine is surely sorely needed in Malaysia, which recorded 6,045 cases on Sunday (4 Jul).
This is despite the nation having been under a total lockdown, termed as a Movement Control Order (MCO), since 1 Jun.
Doctor shares video of dire situation
The dire situation was illustrated by a doctor in Klang Valley, Selangor state, who uploaded a video on Facebook.
It showed the scene in 1 of the area’s busiest hospitals, where Covid-19 patients were lying close to one another, separated only by plastic sheets.
Some didn’t even have a bed, and were sitting in wheelchairs instead.
Dr Arisman said all the patients in the video were Covid-19 patients or those under investigation, and emphasised,
This is in our own country. Not in India. Not in Indonesia!
According to Malaysia’s Special Committee on Covid-19 Vaccine Supply, 6,261,014 people in the country have been given at least 1 vaccine dose.
Considering Malaysia’s population is about 31.95 million, that’s 19.6% vaccinated.
Prudent to be prepared
It’s good news that Malaysia’s developing its own vaccine, even if it may be out only in 2024.
Since Covid-19 is going to be with us for quite awhile, it’s prudent that countries ensure they’re prepared for future waves.
In the meantime, hopefully our neighbour’s situation will get better soon – it’s heartbreaking to see people suffering.
We wonder if Singapore is similarly thinking of producing a vaccine?
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Featured image adapted from Hakan Nural @ Unsplash.
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