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Sunday, January 31, 2021

'King can proclaim emergency ordinance to set private sector vaccine prices'

 Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah can proclaim an emergency ordinance to regulate the prices of Covid-19 vaccines, should they be allowed to be brought in by private companies that have sealed deals to be distributors.  - Bernama file pic

KUALA LUMPUR: Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah can proclaim an emergency ordinance to regulate the prices of Covid-19 vaccines, should they be allowed to be brought in by private companies that have sealed deals to be distributors.

Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president Amrahi Buang said this would prevent companies that intended to channel vaccine supplies to the private healthcare sector, such as clinics and hospitals, from profiteering.

"There must be some control and the king can proclaim an emergency ordinance to set
a price range for the vaccines shipped in by private companies. This is to be fair to consumers, who can choose what prices they are comfortable with paying to get vaccinated.

"As the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines is expected to arrive in about a month, it is important that the government set a range to control its prices as soon as possible.

Amrahi Buang

Amrahi Buang

"We understand that the private sector wants to make a profit, but it should not be excessive."

He reminded all parties that the goal of vaccine procurement was to allow the population to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

"That is important and we should aim towards achieving that," Amrahi told the New Sunday Times.

Once a price range is set, Amrahi said, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry could play its role as an enforcement agency to ensure the private healthcare sector toed the line.

He said there should be effort to ensure Covid-19 vaccines were strictly barred from being sold online, as that would be against the Poisons Act 1952.

On Jan 12, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said His Majesty, who consented to declaring a state of emergency based on Clause 1 under Article 150 of the Federal
Constitution until Aug 1, could proclaim an ordinance should he be satisfied that there were specific events that warranted immediate action to curb Covid-19.

Datuk Paul Selvaraj
Datuk Paul Selvaraj

Muhyiddin said it could cover matters related to the use of private hospital assets, temporary land ownership, buildings or private hospital moveable property, or to make a request to use private hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association chief executive officer Datuk Paul Selvaraj said it was important that the government come up with a clear and transparent policy on vaccine procurement and distribution by private companies.

He said it was understandable that private companies wanted to make reasonable and fair profits, but this should not be at the expense of public health through profiteering.

"The government should ideally come up with a regulation in terms of pricing and providing information on (product) efficiency as Covid-19 vaccines are considered critical and essential for public use during the Covid-19 pandemic, just like face masks.

"We want as many people as possible to have access to the vaccine because it is a matter of life and death.

"People should not feel that certain people have more advantage and better access to the vaccine than others.

"This would not happen unless the price is reasonable," said Selvaraj. - NST

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