KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 23): At least four pharmacy chains in Malaysia are facing shortages in Covid-19 antigen rapid tests, as coronavirus infections surge to daily highs in the Omicron wave.
Citing local chain BIG Pharmacy, health news portal CodeBlue on Tuesday (Feb 22) reported that ready stocks and inventory of Covid-19 self-test kits are running low amid panic buying, as demand still exceeds supply, even after Chinese New Year.
“There are many [members of the] public rushing to buy and bulk purchase,” a marketing manager from BIG Pharmacy emailed CodeBlue last Saturday.
The report said BIG Pharmacy, which has more than 80 outlets in Malaysia, however did not specify which of its stores are running particularly low on Covid-19 antigen rapid tests.
Meanwhile, AA Pharmacy’s marketing department said demand for Covid-19 self-test kits has more than doubled, amid the recent surge in coronavirus infections.
“Stocks are running low due to inconsistent supply from suppliers and shipment rate is very expensive,” an AA Pharmacy marketing representative told CodeBlue, adding that customers were also engaging in panic buying or bulk purchasing of Covid-19 tests.
AA Pharmacy has 46 outlets in the Klang Valley and two in Seremban.
Similarly, a representative from the purchasing department of AM PM Pharmacy, with 40 outlets that are mostly based in Johor, said Covid-19 self-test kits are now out of stock.
A community pharmacist working at Alpro Pharmacy’s headquarters told CodeBlue that most of the more than 100 Covid-19 antigen rapid tests approved by the Medical Device Authority are imported, particularly from China.
“Since the pandemic, supply chain is a challenge when port traffic jams, shipping container shortages and manpower insufficiencies continue. The Lunar New Year festive holiday in China also caused some delay in shipment,” the pharmacist said.
CodeBlue added that the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP) said in a separate statement Feb 22 that there are sufficient Covid-19 antigen rapid test kits (RTK), noting that there are currently 18 million units in the market.
It said KPDNHEP also noted that it has only received three complaints this year on Covid-19 self-test kit shortages.
RTK retail prices range from RM4.90 to RM19.90 per kit. Eighty percent of RTK products are sold for below RM10.