KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia on Tuesday granted conditional approval for the use of vaccines made by UK firm AstraZeneca and China's Sinovac, just days after launching its nationwide COVID-19 inoculation programme.
Malaysia began its vaccination drive on Feb. 24 using a shot developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, as it tries to rein in a spike in infections and help revive an economy that recorded its worst slump in more than two decades last year.
The conditional approval means Malaysia will use the vaccines developed by Astrazeneca and Sinovac, but both firms - along with Pfizer - will be required to provide additional data on rolling submissions to ensure the vaccines' effectiveness and safety, health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement.
Health authorities are also evaluating the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute, and the local bottling facility for Sinovac's vaccine, Noor Hisham said.
Sinovac signed a deal with Malaysia's Pharmaniaga, which will carry out a fill-and-finish process for the vaccine's distribution in Malaysia, before later manufacturing it locally.
Malaysia aims to vaccinate at least 80% of its population of about 32 million by February next year.
Last month, the government said it had secured 66.7 million vaccine doses, enough to more than cover its population.
(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)