Thailand mobilising towards faster vaccinations as the Covid virus pandemic reaches new heights
The Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has ordered the preparation of regulations to allow for the swift approval of a consignment of 2 million vaccine doses that are expected to arrive in Thailand in February and be used to inoculate front line medical staff and the most vulnerable. This initial batch is reported to be costing the kingdom ฿558 per dose or $19 which is nearly 400% the rate quoted at the end of November when the government signed a contract with UK Swedish firm AstraZeneca for 26 million doses and a long term licence to manufacture the Oxford University developed vaccine in Thailand.
The Thai government is moving to speed up the country’s vaccination programme as the Covid-19 crisis in the country spreads. The emergence of Thailand’s second wave, unfortunately, coincides with the most devastating phase of the Covid 19 outbreak in western countries with record numbers of new infections and deaths from the worldwide pandemic.
As Thailand’s second wave of the virus begins to spread with increasing alarm at the effects of the four day holiday period on the proliferation of the disease, there appears to be a change of emphasis and new impetus from the government in relation to the rollout of a vaccine nationwide.
On Friday, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration warned the Thai public that even in the best-case scenario, the current wave rolling over the kingdom with three more deaths announced in the last two days and nearly 500 new cases, would not recede until mid-February at the earliest.
Tourism Minister suggested in recent weeks that Thailand would be cautious about inoculation
As recently as last week, the Minister of Tourism and a Bhumjaithai Party cabinet colleague of the Minister for Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul, suggested that the government would consciously delay a vaccine rollout until later this year out of fear of what may happen with widespread vaccination programmes in western countries.
‘The Public Health Ministry is quite serious about the decision to wait and see the side effects thoroughly. We don’t have to be a Covid vaccine guinea pig,’ said Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.
Prime Minister has ordered the Public Health Ministry to expand its search for more vaccine doses
However, on Thursday, New Year’s Eve, a spokesman for the Prime Minister, Anucha Burapachaisri, had a different story. He told the press that the PM had ordered the Minister of Public Health, Mr Anutin, to expand negotiations with pharmaceutical firms across the world to secure more vaccine doses for the Thai public.
At the end of November, Thailand’s government signed a formal deal with Swedish UK group AstraZeneca to provide 26 million doses of the vaccine developed in association with Oxford University to the country’s health service in the first 6 months of this year.
Thailand’s plans to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine at a plant in Pathum Thani later this year
This deal is also linked with a partnership arrangement where Thai firm Siam BioScience will manufacture the vaccine under licence at a plant in Pathum Thani which is expected to provide 15 million doses per month later in the year, much of which is expected to be exported.
New Year’s announcement sees kingdom paying $19 per dose from an unknown supplier to vaccinate front line medical staff as the 2nd wave grows
However, on Friday, the Minister of Public Health, Mr Anutin, announced that the first batches of vaccines will arrive in Thailand in February and will be quickly administered to front line medical staff as a priority.
This batch amounts to 2 million doses and comes at a hefty price reported to be $19 per dose or ฿558 approximately.
It is not known who the supplier of this vaccine is or which pharmaceutical firm has developed it.
Thailand now finds itself in the market for more vaccine doses as leading western countries are quickly snapping them up as they come to market.
It was reported, last week, that France has purchased enough vaccine doses to inoculate 100 million people with a population of just 67 million.
Push is on to ramp up production of vaccines worldwide as incoming US president threatens the use of the Defence Act to secure doses for America
Pfizer, the first to produce an approved vaccine, has announced over the last 24 hours that it is to boost production of its vaccine while incoming US president, Joe Biden, has said that he may use the US Defence Act to expedite the production and sequestration of vaccines for the US population as deaths in the United States and across the western world rise inexorably.
Outgoing President Donald Trump used this power, granted to a US President in wartime, to order the priority manufacture of ventilators in 2020. The move produced remarkable results.
Deaths from the disease in the USA on the 31st December were over 3,460 with over 230,000 infections while on New Year’s Eve, the UK reported 980 deaths with over 50,000 infections. New Year’s Day saw over 600 deaths.
Government prepares regulations to give to the Food and Drug Administration for the new vaccine batch of unknown origin that will be first to arrive in Thailand
The deal signed in November with AstraZeneca priced the initial 26 million doses at $5 per dose or ฿150 each.
Minister Anutin said on Friday that the next step will be for Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration to prepare for the approval of the first vaccine batch. He said this would require the preparation of regulations.
In the meantime, he would be seeking cabinet approval for the outlay of ฿1.117 billion to pay for the first step in Thailand’s vaccination process.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister, Pryaut chan ocha was quoted by the same government spokesman as saying that it was a key government priority for at least 50% of the national population to be vaccinated in the course of this year.
About the Author
James Morris is a pename for an international writer based in Bangkok who works on various international news media. He is a sub editor with the Thai Examiner news website since it began in 2015. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.