Brunei to get COVID vaccine for 50pc of population next year

Izah Azahari

Brunei Darussalam is guaranteed a supply of the COVID-19 vaccine for 50 per cent of the population, while another 20 per cent are through direct negotiations with pharmaceutical companies, according to Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar.

The Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has begun negotiations with the World Health Organization (WHO) to acquire the vaccine.

This was said by the Minister of Health during a press conference at the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) building yesterday.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said there is a big possibility that the vaccine will only be on the market in the first quarter of next year.

He said the logistics of production and distribution will need to be taken into account, and the government will try to acquire at least five per cent of the vaccine to ease what the country’s needs are.

Brunei is in direct negotiations with two of the three companies that are producing the vaccine.

The minister said all of these will have to go through regulatory process to ensure the vaccine is safe for use, and the tests being done on the vaccine are standardised.

Once approved, papers will be published in medical journals that are open for medical practitioners’ analysis. Three papers have been published and are open to all medical practitioners to review.

“We can already see this now that there is a lot of information to be obtained as well,” said the minister.

While taking the vaccine is not compulsory, the minister said it is highly encouraged.

“Of course people are wary of its safety. It normally takes years for a vaccine to be produced or at least 10 years before it can be used.

“But, Alhamdulillah, with the cooperation and collective efforts of scientists and enforcers in the care of the vaccine’s quality, although it is fast, they were able to monitor the quality of the vaccine. Insya Allah it will be safe, but of course we still need to see the final results of the vaccine.”

The minister also said the government will prioritise and encourage the vaccine for frontline workers, medical practitioners and high-risk groups.

“Even though the way they are doing it is quite short – with less than a year – the monitoring is quite strict. How it was produced and how they checked for complications of those who are following this project is being monitored thoroughly,” the minister added.

Meanwhile, as Brunei will be hosting the ASEAN Summit next year, Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham said it is very unlikely the nation can host in-person meetings during the first half of the year because the vaccine will only be available during the first quarter of the year.

Considering the global demands of it, it is still unknown when Brunei can get a hold of the vaccine.

“To host ASEAN, that’s a discussion with our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ASEAN on how it will be done,” he said.