(Photo Credits: Twitter – Jawatankuasa Jaminan Akses Vaksin @jkjavmy)
The end of February has seen the beginning of Malaysia’s COVID-19 vaccination era, with the arrival of 312,390 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine onboard a Jalur Gemilang-draped Malaysia Airlines flight from Singapore. As Phase 1 of vaccination began on Wednesday, Malaysia joins a list of other countries who have also begun their vaccination efforts in the fight against COVID-19. For this #TILWithPUTRA, we look at how other countries fare in their vaccination efforts.
India, producer of the CoviShield vaccine, is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines. CoviShield, a licensed version of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, is produced at the Serum Institute of India, which is capable of producing 50 million doses per month. With vaccines readily available domestically, India was able to begin its vaccination efforts in mid-January with a target of 300 million people to be vaccinated by July.
Indonesia too had begun vaccinating in mid-January using Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac vaccine. Previously, the country had been host to Phase 3 clinical testing for Sinovac since August 2020, which may lend itself to Indonesia’s early delivery of vaccines. The high number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia meant that it would be more feasible to conduct clinical studies for vaccines in the country, with the larger sample size contributing greatly to the research.
Developed countries like the US, the UK and Singapore on the other hand also began vaccinations early. Their strong economic standing allows them to provide funds for the research and development of COVID-19 vaccines, which puts them as the prime recipients for when such vaccines would be made available. Countries within the EU, and Canada on the other hand chose to purchase vaccines outright earlier than other countries, putting them ahead in the queue as well. However, their deliveries have been hampered due to production issues, stemming from factory expansions, lower than expected output and unfortunate incidents.
Elsewhere in the world, many less developed countries are looking to the COVAX program by GAVI; the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI) and others. The program aims to provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines specifically for countries who do not have the financial means to purchase vaccines for their population, with many developed countries setting aside their vaccine surplus to contribute to this program. On February 24, Ghana became the first country to receive vaccines from COVAX, with more deliveries to other countries scheduled to come.
While more and more countries gain access to COVID-19 vaccines, we must remember that the war against COVID-19 has not yet been won. We must still be vigilant and exercise precautions like wearing masks, washing hands frequently and maintaining our physical distancing. However, with the arrival of the vaccination era, we can now finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and hope for the return of normalcy.
Ahmad Mohsein Azman
PUTRA Centre For Social Studies