Localized fill-and-finish production of Sinovac vaccine facilitates Malaysias fight against COVID-19
The locally fill-and-finish Sinovac jabs have been in use in Malaysia since getting regulatory approval in April. Some 14 million doses have been completed ahead of schedule as of July.
In a low-rise building of Malaysian pharmaceutical company Pharmaniaga Life Sciences (PLS) on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, the fill and finish operation is going on for the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine.
The unassuming site has run non-stop -- 24 hours a day and seven days a week -- as a crucial part of Malaysia combating COVID-19. It also marks the close cooperation between the Southeast Asian country and China in time of the COVID-19 crisis.
Manufacturing head Mohd Saharuddin Othman was still excited when recalling the arrival of first Sinovac vaccines from China on Feb. 27.
"It was a very emotional moment when the first bulk arrived ... in our warehouse, I think the team was all motivated, to start to do the fill and finish," he said, "The team knows this is our responsibility. This is our key moment ... to support the government in fighting this COVID-19 pandemic."
Sinovac and Pharmaniaga in January signed the agreement on cooperation in localizing the fill-and-finish process of Sinovac's CoronaVac vaccine, a move marking a milestone in Malaysia's pharmaceutical industry.
Production manager Mohd Ridhwan Kalantar Mastan has overseen the Sinovac vaccine fill and finish operation at Pharmaniaga from the very beginning.
"The moment that we find out that we will be part of this collaboration with Sinovac was a moment of relief," said the manager. "Knowing that we can be able to produce vaccine locally, and this vaccine can be used for our people and our nation, a lot faster than what we would have if we hadn't had Sinovac and Pharmaniaga to help us to do this."
"So a very great sense of relief and a very great sense of pride and I'm proud as well to be part of this core team, to help the nation, to save lives and also even our family's lives as well," he said.
The coronavirus epidemic in Malaysia has worsened since the beginning of 2021, recording a daily high of 24,599 new cases on Aug. 26. As protracted restrictions took heavy tolls on economy and livelihoods, the Malaysian government has pinned its hope on the COVID-19 vaccine.
Mohd Ridhwan and Pharmaniaga workers have been racing against time to make sure the CoronaVac doses are available for the national inoculation program.
No public holidays for the non-stop production, Mohd Ridhwan said while observing the workflow.
They never lacked the will in preparing the vaccine for Malaysians' fight against COVID-19, and took pride in their role in the efforts towards ending the pandemic.
"I take this role very seriously, as well because as a pharmacist, and production manager, our role is to ensure that the products being produced are safe at all times, and they are effective at all times," he said.
Their efforts paid off. The locally fill-and-finish Sinovac jabs have been in use since getting regulatory approval in April.
They have completed some 14 million doses ahead of schedule as of July, according to the manager.
The Malaysian government earlier approved the Sinovac vaccine for the use for teenagers aged 12 to 17 from Oct. 1.
As of Oct. 10, 90 percent of the Malaysian adult population have been fully vaccinated.
Mohd Saharuddin said the cooperation with Sinovac and its willingness to be engaging and open in technology transfer, enables Pharmaniaga to successfully build its CoronaVac operation with the Chinese technology and expertise on human vaccines.
He said the two sides have overcome in the collaboration many difficulties due to COVID-19, especially travel restrictions by using the digital and video conferencing technology, in addition to the language barrier.
A grateful Mohd Ridhwan was proud of making the vaccine fill-and-finish process happen.
"I think this transfer of technology of COVID-19 vaccine is a big, monumental technology transfer between country to country. We can also show and prove already that it is able to be done when we have the necessary guidance, and advice and technology source, then we can also replicate that in a different factory, with the collaboration of all the people," he said.
The smooth collaboration was noted in the phone conversation between Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Sept. 29.
Saifuddin thanked China on the vaccine collaboration and Wang also pledged continued support from China for Malaysia's pandemic response including for the vaccine collaboration, as well as joint efforts in tackling post-pandemic challenges.