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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Princess steps in to approve alternative vaccine imports

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr/Casino Connection

Princess Chulabhorn, sister to His Majesty, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, has signed a decree to allow the Chulabhorn Royal Academy, which she sponsors, to import Covid-19 vaccines. It’s understood that the institution will import another Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm, which the Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve in the coming week.

The surprise development has been confirmed in the Royal Gazette and comes as the government struggles to get on top of its own vaccine procurement plans. In recent weeks, those plans have been dogged by a series of mixed messages, the scrapping of the vaccine registration platform, flip-flopping over foreigners being included or not, and confusion over whether or not supplies of Thailand’s “primary vaccine” – AstraZeneca – would be delivered on time. Public anger is growing, with most pointing the finger at PM Prayut Chan-o-cha for the failings.

Nithi Mahanonda from Chulabhorn Royal Academy has confirmed on the institution’s Facebook page that it will import “alternative vaccines”. The academy says the doses will supplement the government’s supply until an adequate number of doses is available for the country, adding that it will comply with all government import and registration regulations.

“The Royal Academy will procure ‘alternative vaccines’ until vaccines that are produced in the country reach a capacity that can sufficiently protect against outbreaks.”

The term “alternative vaccines” refers to any vaccines not being used as part of the government’s own rollout. Currently, the government is using Sinovac and AstraZeneca, with plans to import doses of the Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Russian Sputnik V vaccines. Meanwhile private hospitals have confirmed their plans to import 10 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which recipients will have to pay for.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul says he knew nothing about the plan and only became aware of it when the order was published in the Royal Gazette.

“I just saw the announcement last night. But if it is a benefit to the country, we are ready.”

Up until now, the PM and his administration have always insisted that only the government can import vaccines. The national vaccine rollout is expected to kick off on June 7, although confusion remains about whether locally-manufactured AstraZeneca doses will be ready.

Meanwhile, it is not yet known how many vaccine doses the Chulabhorn Royal Academy plans to import, when they will arrive, and whether or not they will be free. The institution plans to hold a press conference later today.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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