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M'Sai to produce world's first vaccine for meningitis

KOTA BAHARU-- Malaysia is to produce world's first halal vaccine for "meningitis" (inflammation of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord).

The vaccine, which will particularly benefit thousands of Haj pilgrims,

will be produced by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in two years.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said USM would work with the Finlay Institute in Cuba to produce the vaccine.

He said Malaysia and Cuba would share the cost for the RM3.6 million project, with the ministry providing RM2 million and Cuba footing the balance RM1.6 million.

A memorandum of understanding between USM and Finlay Institute would be signed in Cuba in December, he told reporters at a Aidilfitri gathering

hosted by USM's Health Faculty.

He said 12 medical specialists from USM and 30 experts from the

institute would work together to produce the vaccine from halal extracts of

animals slaughtered according to Islamic tenets.

Currently, the vaccine for meningitis was imported from western

countries which produced it from pig extracts.

Mustapa said that currently Muslims worldwide relied on non-halal

vaccine from western countries to meet the mandatory requirement set by the Saudi government for pilgrims performing the haj and umrah in Mecca.

He said Finlay Institute was picked as USM's working partner for the

project as it was among the best medical institutes in Cuba and in the


"This is a success for USM and the country's pride to see Malaysia

realising its plan to produce the vaccine," he said.

On another matter, Mustapa said his ministry had sanctioned RM200

million to be disbursed to four universities to conduct research which

could contribute to nation-building.

"This is additional allocation to USM, Universiti Putra Malaysia,

Universiti Malaya and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia," he said.

The minister also expressed disappointment over the slow pace of

progress of projects under the ministry.

"I will meet Public Works Department officials soon to speed up all

projects being implemented under the Ninth Malaysia Plan," he said.

Mustapa said projects, including upgrading of the USM Hospital in

Kubang Kerian, must be expedited to ensure the people received adequate

medical facilities.

Stressing that the ministry was closely monitoring ninth plan projects

to ensure they were carried out on schedule, he said: "I am not happy with

the current pace of progress."

He said RM137 million has been allocated to upgrade USM Hospital.



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