With vaccine a long way off, focus on preventive measures, says MMA

The MMA says it will take at least 12 to 18 months before mass vaccination programmes against Covid-19 can be carried out. (AFP pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has dashed any hope that a vaccine for Covid-19 will be ready any time soon.

Its president Dr N Ganabaskaran said it would take at least 12 to 18 months before a product would be ready for mass vaccination programmes.

“However, even that timeline is considered optimistic. Under normal circumstances, it usually takes years,” he told FMT.

During the SARS outbreak from 2000 to 2003, it took medical researchers 20 months for the vaccine to be ready for human testing.

By then, the outbreak had been contained with public health measures.

Ganabaskaran said the World Health Organization (WHO) had developed three more preliminary Covid-19 vaccines for human trials.

“WHO had recently added three more candidates to its running list of coronavirus vaccines in human trials, bringing the total to six. These six are said to be progressing for human trials at unprecedented speed.

“Our government had also recently confirmed that it is in talks with two companies from China and another countries that are developing a vaccine against Covid-19 to have clinical trials done in Malaysia. We believe they are still in the discussion stage,” he said.

He said developing vaccines took a long time because there were many phases of trials to be passed.

“We understand that some of the clinical trials conducted now are only in Phase I or II, aimed at evaluating whether a vaccine is safe and effective in humans.

“After that, the clinical trial process still has three additional stages – Phase III, regulatory review and Phase IV,” he said.

Ganabaskaran said the government should focus on preventive measures for the time being as there was no indication when a vaccine could be made available.

“Ensuring a constant supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and full compliance with the MCO and other measures recommended by the health ministry should be our highest priorities now,” he said.

He also agreed with the decision to extend the MCO as lifting it too early could result in “relapse”, like what happened in Hokkaido, Japan.

On Friday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin joined several world leaders in calling for global collaboration to accelerate work on a vaccine for Covid-19.

He offered Malaysia’s full support for the global collaboration.

“Malaysia is fully committed to being part of this time-bound effort and to take on the manufacturing of some of these tools and vaccines as they become available,” he said.

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