Sunday, 13 Jun 2021

AstraZeneca commits to Thai vaccine doses amid supply anxiety

BANGKOK (REUTERS) – Drugmaker AstraZeneca said on Wednesday (June 2) it will soon provide Thailand with 1.8 million doses of its locally manufactured Covid-19 vaccine, the first of multiple batches this month, just days out from the launch of the country’s mass vaccination drive.

The announcement in a joint statement by AstraZeneca and Siam Bioscience, a firm owned by Thailand’s King, comes amid public anxiety about vaccine supplies, as the country suffers its most severe outbreak so far.

The statement did not say whether the Thai plant will make all six million doses that Thailand’s government has promised will be available this month.

The government’s immunisation drive starts on June 7 and relies almost entirely on its reserved 61 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the majority of which it said will come from Siam Bioscience, which is making vaccines for the first time.

Questions about Siam Bioscience meeting production targets are sensitive because King Maha Vajiralongkorn is its sole owner.

Insulting Thailand’s monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

AstraZeneca has partnered with the Thai firm for the manufacture of 200 million doses for use in South-east Asia, a region with low Covid-19 immunisation rates that is seeing a strong resurgence of the virus.

Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Wednesday that the promised six million doses will come this month “as planned”, but did not specify delivery dates or how many will be sourced locally.

“We will get the AstraZeneca vaccine. It may come from wherever, but all AstraZeneca just the same. It could be made in Thailand or imported from overseas. It depends on AstraZeneca’s supply chain,” Mr Anutin told reporters.

Siam Bioscience has not answered queries from Reuters on its production targets.

AstraZeneca said 1.8 million locally produced doses will be delivered by next Monday, the first of multiple deliveries this month.

It said deliveries of Thai-made doses to other South-east Asian countries will start in July.

The first delivery to the Philippines, which was promised 17 million doses, was cut from 1.3 million to 1.17 million doses and delayed from late June to mid-July, a Philippine presidential adviser told Reuters on Tuesday, citing Thai production delays.

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