Coronavirus (Covid-19)Thailand

Thammasat University vs. Foreign Affairs Ministry: 1.5 million vaccines lost

PHOTO: Thammasat University clashed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over vaccine procurement. (via timeshighereducation.com)

It seems that the dust is still settling on the back and forth that pitted Thammasat University Hospital against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a struggle to import 1.5 million free Moderna vaccines donated by Poland. Each side argues that it was the other’s failure that prevented the vaccine from being received in Thailand.

The university had coordinated a deal with Thonburi Healthcare Group after three months of work, creating a memorandum of understanding that should allow private firms to obtain Covid-19 vaccines through Thammasat University Hospital. The school would coordinate with international suppliers to bring the vaccines into Thailand, and in exchange private firms like THG would foot the bill for the logistic like quality control, insurance, and transportation.

A deal was worked out that for absorbing the logistics cost, an expense of millions of baht, THG would receive 1 million vaccines which they would then sell to their customers. The university would receive half a million vaccines that they vowed to administer for free for people in need.

Everything in the plan seemed good, and all that was left to do was to obtain a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs giving the green light to the scheme. And that’s when it hit a brick wall. The ministry refused to give them the letter.

Thammasat University Hospital took to Facebook proclaiming that all their hard work obtaining vaccines was for nought and the deal had died in the hands of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. But the ministry took offence to the characterization and offered more backstory into why they didn’t sign the papers.

They said that they believed the university’s plan was in violation of the rules that Poland had set out for the donation. Officials in Poland had said that the donated vaccines could not be sold, so the Thai government felt but allowing THG to recoup their investment costs by selling the vaccines was in direct violation of this rule, and they feared signing off on this would put the country at risk of losing credibility and good standing with Poland.

Thammasat University Hospital then responded to the government’s rebuttal by saying that they wish the Foreign Ministry have been more transparent with the reasoning as that would have given the university a chance to try to restructure or salvage the deal on vaccines rather than let everything fall apart as it did.

They hadn’t seen it as a problem that the private hospital funding the donation would recoup their expenses by selling two-thirds of the vaccines and said that the set price was 400 baht instead of 1,100 that officially mandated government imports are charging.

A government official advised that the university needs to research and fully understand the terms and conditions before pursuing deals in the future, but the university said that after being burned they will no longer pursue vaccine donations and only offer paid vaccines from now on.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

Thammasat University vs. Foreign Affairs Ministry: 1.5 million vaccines lost | News by Thaiger

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.