Thailand Approves AstraZeneca Vaccine Amid Second Virus Wave

Thailand approved AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, paving the way for the country to begin inoculating its 67 million people amid a resurgence in the coronavirus cases.

Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration granted the approval for the vaccine on Thursday, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said by phone. AstraZeneca is the first coronavirus vaccine developer to win approval in Thailand, which also has ordered shots developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

“Now we’ll have to wait for the vaccines to be shipped to Thailand, which we’re speaking with the company about,” Anutin said.

Thai government has ordered 61 million shots of AstraZeneca vaccine, which has won approvals for emergency use in countries including India, the U.K. and Brazil. The regulatory nod will also open the door for imports by private Thai companies for administering the doses to people who can afford to pay.

Thailand Approves AstraZeneca Vaccine Amid Second Virus Wave

Thailand, which was relatively successful last year in containing the pathogen, is betting on wider availability of the vaccine to revive its tourism-reliant economy that’s devastated by the pandemic. The Southeast Asian nation has set a target of inoculating at least 50% of the nation’s population before the end of 2021 as it battles a new wave of infections that’s seen total cases almost triple in the past month to almost 13,000.

Vaccine Criticism

The government has so far approved plans to purchase a total of 63 million doses and the National Vaccine Institute is in talks with several manufacturers for additional supplies for delivery as early as this quarter. The orders include the AstraZeneca vaccines, some of which will be produced locally by Siam Bioscience Ltd. through technology transfer.

The nod for AstraZeneca vaccine comes amid a raging controversy about the involvement of Siam Bioscience, a company with links to the monarchy. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a former premier candidate and one of the government’s most high-profile critics, has questioned the nation’s vaccine strategy that relies heavily on AstraZeneca and the criteria for Siam Bioscience’s selection.

The government has defended its vaccine plans, saying it doesn’t depend on any one manufacturer, and filed a royal defamation complaint against Thanathorn for his alleged criticisms of the monarchy.

The first batch of locally-produced AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be ready for distribution in May, following the rollout of 2 million doses of Sinovac vaccine starting in February. The Chinese vaccine is expected to be approved next month, according to officials.

Read More on Thailand’s vaccines
Thailand Aims to Inoculate At Least Half The Population in 2021
Thailand to Let Private Firms to Import, Sell Covid-19 Vaccines
Covid-19 Pushes Thailand’s Vaccine Development to ‘New Era’

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