WHO: Malaysia can handle Covid-19 cold-chain vaccines

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PETALING JAYA: The World Health Organization (WHO) has alleviated fears that as the country has proven capable of doing so in the past, Malaysia will struggle to administer vaccines that require sub-zero storage and transport.

Dr Lo Ying-Ru, Head of Mission and WHO representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, spoke at the “Recover Better-Stand Up for Human Rights” virtual forum saying that the country’s ability to handle the Sabah polio outbreak earlier this year showed that the logistical capacity to sustain cold-chain transport and storage is in place.

“The oral polio vaccine that was donated to children in Sabah from the WHO stockpile needed storage at -80 degrees, so we know that Malaysia has the capacity to produce and administer the vaccine at the storage facility”, she said.

The Covid-19 vaccines which released preliminary data, the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines both require the maintenance of extremely cold temperatures in order to remain effective, respectively -70 °C and -20 °C, which must be maintained during transport and storage.

“During the unfortunate polio outbreak, we were able to bring in vaccines at -80 ° C. We collected them at the health ministry’s designated warehouse and they were distributed to Sabah, so we know it works. Malaysia is willing to do it,” said Lo.

She said that the opportunity to equitably distribute Covid-19 vaccines would be essential to ensuring that local and global efforts to curb the spread of the virus are not threatened.

This echoed statements made in his opening address at the forum by Foreign Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who said that “universal access to an affordable, accessible and equitable vaccine is crucial.”

“Vaccination is a human right that must be respected, protected and fulfilled,” he said.

The forum was organized jointly by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Legal Affairs Division of the Prime Minister’s Department and the United Nations in Malaysia, in celebration of Human Rights Day 2020.

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