After delays in domestic and international deliveries and halving the monthly vaccine delivery targets to 5 million for Thai use, AstraZeneca has now asked for an extension for their delivery schedule of 61 million Covid-19 vaccines. The company, which has partnered with Siam Bioscience to produce vaccines domestically, now expects to reach its goal by May of 2022. The delay will not help Thailand’s already painfully slow vaccine rollout, which heavily relied on domestic productions over importing vaccines.
While AstraZeneca has promised to try to stick to the original commitment, Deputy Minister of Public Health Satit Pitutacha says that increased global demand has outpaced production capacity leading to delays. A major hurdle in getting domestically produced vaccines is that Siam Bioscience, a company wholly owned by a subsidiary of Crown Property Bureau, overestimated its production capabilities and made international commitments to export vaccines to other countries.
The government is currently considering plans to restrict the number of vaccines allowed to be exported as currently two-thirds of vaccines produced in Thailand are being sent abroad. The government hopes to keep at least 40% of the doses for domestic use or as many as it can get its hands on.
Satit implied that if countries who have had delays in their AstraZeneca vaccine orders from Thailand are able to find other vaccines from other sources, Thailand will gladly take over their order and use the vaccines domestically. All the AstraZeneca vaccines the government has received have already been distributed and they now expect only 5 to 6 million more per month. The original plan called for 10 million vaccines per month, starting this month, until the end of the year.
The government is now scrambling to put together a vaccine procurement plan that will supply the country with at least 100 million vaccines by the end of the year. They pointed to a debated order of 20 million Pfizer vaccines that had been announced by the Thonburi Healthcare Group and later denied by BioNTech, with Satit saying that a contract with Pfizer will be signed today and another for 5 million Moderna vaccines will be signed next week for October delivery. Though they also spoke of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the government still plans to rely heavily on AstraZeneca despite the delays and Sinovac vaccines despite its reduced efficiency against the Delta variant, with some supplemental help from Sinopharm vaccines.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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