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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Probe launched after minister, DG deny Mestron given ‘clearance’ for vaccine distribution

 


The Health Ministry has denied Mestron Holdings Bhd’s insistence that it has “clearance” from the ministry to pursue a Covid-19 vaccine distribution deal.

It is also investigating the listed firm over the allegation.

Health Minister Dr Adham Baba confirmed that no clearance letter was ever issued to the company.

“In my capacity as the minister, I did not issue any support letters to the company,” Adham told Malaysiakini when contacted this evening.

“I have confirmed with my deputy minister, who confirmed with his senior private secretary that no support or clearance letter was issued,” he added.

Meanwhile, health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said he had no knowledge over the Mestron deal and is looking into the claim.

Health Minister Dr Adham Baba

“To my knowledge, no such engagement with any private companies (has occurred) [...]

“We are investigating his claims,” said the top official.

Mestron - which specialises in manufacturing steel poles for street lights - made the announcement yesterday in a filing with Bursa Malaysia.

Managing director Por Teong Eng said the company had received a “clearance letter from the Ministry of Health” to commence negotiations and cooperation with China-based firms for the “importation, distribution, sale, marketing, use and application of the Covid-19 vaccine in Malaysia”.

The firm doubled-down on its clearance letter claim today and claimed it was dated Jan 8, 2021, after the Health Ministry denied a news report about the matter.

“The ministry has never issued any approval or authorisation letters to private or other parties to purchase or distribute Covid-19 vaccines in Malaysia.

“For now, the ministry has only been given the authority to manage (vaccine) access and purchase Covid-19 vaccines [...],” the ministry said on its official Facebook page.

Registration hurdle

In yesterday’s filing, Por announced that Mestron had agreed to begin talks with China-based Zhongyu Yexing (Chengdu) Industrial Co Ltd to collaborate in distributing China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) Covid-19 vaccines in Malaysia.

He said Zhongyu Yexing was prepared to supply some three million doses once the vaccine is approved in Malaysia, adding that Mestron is expected to invest up to RM20 million in the joint-venture.

Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah

The two Sinopharm vaccines remain in phase three clinical trials and neither has been approved for use in Malaysia.

Noor Hisham stressed tonight that a vaccine can only be administered if it is approved by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA).

“All vaccines must be registered under NPRA. That is the mandatory requirement,” he told Malaysiakini.

The NPRA has given conditional registration to only the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine thus far. - Mkini

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