SEPANG, Feb 21 — The long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine to protect Malaysia’s population arrived in the country on a special aircraft which landed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) here today.
Flight MH604, bearing the Jalur Gemilang livery to symbolise the vaccine is for Malaysians, landed at 10.07 am with the first batch of 312,390 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The Passenger-to-Cargo (P2C) flight used an Airbus 330-300, operated by MAB Kargo Sdn Bhd (MASkargo), the cargo arm of national carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd.
Upon landing, the process of transferring the vaccine, which was placed in the unit load device (ULD), from the cargo section of the aircraft to a truck belonging to logistics company DHL was carried out at the Advanced Cargo Centre (ACC) of KLIA.
Among those present to witness the historic moment were Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, Coordinating Minister for National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme Khairy Jamaluddin and Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
After the transfer process was completed, the truck was then escorted by police to a designated vaccine storage location as a safety measure.
The vaccine’s journey from the Pfizer plant in Belgium was handled by pharmaceutical company Pfizer and DHL, a leader in the logistics industry, under a joint partnership for the international transportation of the vaccine.
The vaccine left Puurs in Belgium and was in transit at the Leipzig Halle Airport in Germany, before continuing on its journey to Singapore for distribution to Asia-Pacific countries, including Malaysia.
The Health Ministry (MOH), on behalf of the Malaysian government, had entered into an agreement with Pfizer (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd on Jan 11 this year for the purchase of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The arrival of the vaccine will kick-start the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme, the largest vaccination programme ever in the country.
As one of the earliest countries in Southeast Asia to use the vaccine, Malaysia, with a population of 32 million people, is hopeful that the immunisation programme will expedite the country’s efforts to revive its economy and improve the lives of the people.
The vaccine has been certified effective and approved by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) of the MOH.
The immunisation programme is divided into three phases, with the first scheduled from Feb 26 to April for frontline personnel, including from the MOH, Malaysian Armed Forces, Royal Malaysia Police, Civil Defence Force and Malaysian Volunteer Department (Rela).
The MOH has identified and prepared about 600 vaccination stations nationwide, among them health clinics as well as government and private hospitals. Each station is to have seven vaccinators.
The second phase is scheduled from April to August for senior citizens aged 60 and above and vulnerable groups with morbidity issues, as well as persons with disabilities.
The third phase is to be from May to February 2022 for those aged 18 and above.
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is expected to receive the vaccine on the first day of the immunisation exercise, on Feb 26, along with several of the frontliners.
The agreement with Pfizer (Malaysia) involves the procurement of 12,799,800 doses of vaccine, covering 20 per cent of the population, with two doses per person.
The vaccination programme, themed ‘Protect Oneself, Protect Everyone’, is a government strategy to ensure that as many Malaysians as possible are vaccinated to break the chain of infection.
Since the first COVID-19 infection was reported in Malaysia on Jan 25, 2020, a total of 1,051 deaths related to the virus have been reported as of yesterday.
A total of 280,272 people have been infected so far but 244,753 have recovered.