(Bloomberg) -- Malaysia isn’t a laggard in securing vaccines, Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Thursday, seeking to allay concerns about the speed of the country’s purchases of shots.
The nation is set to get its first delivery of vaccines before the end of February and the government will try its best to get as many people inoculated within a year, he said. The program will focus on healthcare workers, the elderly and those with chronic diseases, while individuals under 60 will get immunized by or after the third quarter, he said.
While record numbers of covid cases have overwhelmed Malaysia’s health system and spurred the nation’s king to declare a state of emergency to curb the outbreak, the country’s neighbors Indonesia and Singapore have kicked off their inoculation programs. Khairy said Malaysia secured vaccine supplies after assessing clinical data and without having to make large down-payments.
“Many developed countries have received their vaccines because they have paid a lot to corner the market even before the availability of safety and efficacy data,” Khairy said. “We are certainly not laggards,” he said.
Japan placed its order for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in July and will receive it next month, or at the same time as Malaysia, Khairy said. South Korea placed its order in December, a month after Malaysia, and is due to receive the Pfizer shots in the third quarter of this year, he added.
READ: Indonesia to Start Inoculations: Southeast Asia Vaccine Tracker
Malaysia on Monday agreed to buy an additional 12.2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which will help the country secure 25 million doses in total of the shots. That’s enough to cover 39% of the population, according to the health ministry.
Meanwhile, the virus continues to run rampant. The country recorded its highest number of cases on Thursday at 3,337. The government has forecast daily cases to reach 8,000 by late March or late May, based on a predictive modeling analysis.