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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

EU ambassador denies KJ's 'vaccine-hoarding' claim, says Malaysia received millions


Editor's Note: The article has been amended to add background on vaccine hoarding and purchases by the EU and Malaysia. 

The European Union (EU) has denied allegations by the coordinating minister for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP), Khairy Jamaluddin, that the bloc was hoarding Covid-19 vaccines.

EU Ambassador to Malaysia Michalis Rokas said the claims were baseless because the EU’s actions proved that it was very concerned about the issue.

“All requests from the Malaysian government regarding the distribution of vaccines to this country have been approved without any problems by the EU Secretariat,” he said at the virtual launch of the EU-Asean Programme to Support Covid-19 Response in Malaysia, according to a report by Kosmo Online.

According to Bernama, Rokas said the EU had approved the export of about five million doses of vaccines to help Malaysia accelerate the NIP.

He said that figures as of June 15 showed that a total of 4.87 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 560,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been shipped to Malaysia, adding that these were procured via the Covax scheme.

EU Ambassador to Malaysia Michalis Rokas

“All these exports, as per request by Malaysia, were approved instantly, that is within two to three days and also been given due exception because of the pandemic emergency,” he said.

Rokas was speaking a day after Khairy had launched a stunning broadside against global vaccine inequity and countries which hoard Covid-19 vaccines.

Responding to a comment piece in Utusan Malaysia that unfavourably compared the vaccination programme rollout in Malaysia and in Hungary, Khairy charged that EU countries had been stocking up on supplies.

“Are you aware Hungary is part of the EU? And that the EU had negotiated with the vaccine manufacturers as a bloc with the purchasing power of the EU?

“And among the vaccine manufacturers, some of them are based in Europe, so they have been hoarding vaccines from the start.

“Asian countries including Japan, a developed country, are very behind (with the vaccination) compared to European countries, the US, the UK, Canada and so on,” the science, technology and innovation minister had said.

'Richer nations undermining Covax through direct deals'

Last December, the People's Vaccine Alliance said richer nations have hoarded Covid-19 vaccines, purchasing more than they need.

Rich nations, which make up 14 percent of the world's population, had bought up 53 percent of the vaccines, said the coalition of organisations including Oxfam and Amnesty International. 

A study by Duke University also found deals between relatively richer countries and drug manufacturers, known as advance purchase agreements, which are undermining the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Covax plans for equitable distribution.

The researchers found that countries like Canada and the United Kingdom reserved more than enough vaccines to cover their entire population while the EU secured hundreds of millions of doses.

Most of the vaccines administered in the European Economic Area came from Pfizer-BioNTech.

The European Commission in April said more than 80 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have been administered in the EU.

It also signed a deal with Pfizer-BioNTech for delivery of 1.8billion doses between 2021 and 2023.

Hungary, however, bucked the EU trend with 36 percent of vaccines administered there coming from Sinopharm, compared to 32 percent from Pfizer-BioNTech.

Last month, Hungary opted out of EU's deal with Pfizer-BioNTech, preferring to purchase from other sources.

KJ: Malaysian orders delayed

Earlier, Khairy revealed Malaysia has experienced delays in its supplies, including for 2.5 million doses of vaccines which are now expected to be delivered from July onwards.

The doses include two million from Pfizer-BioNTech and 500,000 from Sinovac, he said in a press conference in May.

Malaysia is also still waiting for 6.4 million doses which it procured from AstraZeneca, on top of the AstraZeneca vaccines received via the Covax facility, he added.

Khairy also assured that Malaysia will have enough to vaccinate 80 percent of its population by October.

Meanwhile, at yesterday’s virtual function, Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said that Malaysia will collaborate with the EU in the field of research and development, with a focus on Covid-19 management and response to strengthen its overall emergency preparedness and healthcare system capacity.

“We are all fighting against the same enemy and, with solidarity and good regional cooperation, we will win this battle,” Adham said.

Also present at the virtual event were WHO representative in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore Dr Jacqueline Lo Ying-Ru as well as programme management and technical officer of the WHO Representative Office for Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore Dr Paul Soo. - Mkini

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