Press statement by Khairy Jamaluddin, Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate change, in response to a statement by Ronnie Liu, State Assembyman for Sungei Pelek, Selangor
I refer to the press statement from the State Assemblyman of Sungai Pelek, titled “Muhyiddin must come clean on the COVID-19 vaccine.” The State Assemblyman has claimed several inaccuracies, allegations, and misrepresentations that require answering in this statement.
I will answer them one by one.
1. The State Assemblyman has alleged that the mRNA vaccine will alter the DNA of a person. He has also questioned whether it will be approved by JAKIM based on the same premise.
Briefly, in our cells, mRNAs (messenger RNAs) are temporary molecules that are made from our genomic DNA before it is translated to make a protein. It is essentially a short-term, temporary message.
In this case, the temporary message instructs the body to produce one of the proteins on the surface of the coronavirus. The immune system will then learn to recognise the virus protein and produce antibodies against it. That’s all the mRNA vaccine does. It does not alter your DNA.
In response to State Assemblyman’s query if JAKIM will approve the vaccine since “it is capable of altering the DNA of a person?” The DNA issue has been addressed above. In addition, I have already stated that JAKIM is part of the Jawatankuasa Khas Jaminan Akses Bekalan Vaksin COVID-19 (JKJAV) which assesses COVID-19 vaccines.
Furthermore, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) YB Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri clarified in Parliament, the Muzakarah (Conference) of the National Fatwa Council will study and deliberate on the matter.
2. The State Assemblyman has also questioned who will be paying for the vaccine. If he read beyond the headlines of the announcement, he would have seen that the Prime Minister has pledged that the Government will fund the public COVID-19 vaccination programme for Malaysians with an initial target of 70% of our population to reach herd immunity. The Malaysian Government has set aside at least RM 3 billion solely for this purpose.
3. The pricing of the Pfizer vaccine is covered by a non-disclosure agreement as each country negotiates directly with the pharmaceutical company. Suffice it to say we are satisfied with the terms and pricing that we have agreed upon. The terms we have reached protect Malaysia’s interests both financially and with regards to the safety of the vaccine.
I can categorically confirm that it is definitely less than the RM100 per dose as assumed by the State Assemblyman.
4. The State Assemblyman also claimed that we are rushing to sign deals with vaccine manufacturers. I can categorically say that this is false. We have been negotiating with vaccine manufacturers since April 2020 when we announced our Science Diplomacy strategy. We are considering all data provided by the companies we are negotiating with in order to make the best, most informed decision.
This is just the first of many deals that we are considering. Negotiations are ongoing including with vaccine manufacturers from China (including the manufacturer which the State Assemblyman strongly champions). I would like to emphasise that the vaccines must be deemed safe and efficacious by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) under MOH before we execute the agreements and begin the vaccination process.
It is important to note that not any one pharmaceutical company will be able to supply vaccines for the entire Malaysian population. This is why the multi-pronged approach to procure a portfolio of vaccines is significant in order to obtain enough doses to meet our herd immunity target of 70% of the population.
5. With regards to the ultra-cold supply chain required; the shipment will be handled and delivered by Pfizer directly.
As for ultra-cold storage, we have ultra-low temperature freezers in universities and research institutes in the country which can be redeployed, if necessary. Pfizer has also shown that the vaccines are stable at 2-8 degree Celsius for five days.
We are also not getting the 12.8 million doses in one shot. They will be staggered throughout the year. Our planning for storage will take the delivery schedule into consideration.
6. MOH’s efforts during the crisis have not only been domestically praised but also internationally recognised. They have been working constantly and consistently to ensure that Malaysians have among the best standards of healthcare in the world. All of us will help where we can.
We are taking a whole-of-government approach to the COVID-19 crisis. It is all hands-on deck. Every one of my Cabinet colleagues is involved in this effort to get us through this pandemic.
On the question as to why I am involved, I co-chair the JKJAV with Health Minister, YB Dato’ Seri Dr Adham Baba. MOSTI (Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate change)
is also involved in vaccine negotiations as the ministry in charge of biotechnology. The Malaysia Genome Institute under MOSTI is producing whole genome sequencing and bioinformatics analysis to detect mutations in the genome from COVID-19 samples.
MOSTI is also in the midst of developing a National Vaccine Roadmap. The National Institutes of Biotechnology (NIBM), Malaysia under MOSTI is collaborating with multiple foreign research institutes in vaccine development R&D as well.
I continue to welcome questions and queries on this important national endeavour.