Thailand Turns to Chinese Vaccine as Astra Supply Falls Short
(Bloomberg) -- Thailand plans to use more Chinese-made vaccines to fill the gap in supply from AstraZeneca Plc, with the country kicking off a world-first mixed dose regime amid an unprecedented flareup in its Covid outbreak.
Thai health officials began administering Astra vaccine on Monday as the second shot to recipients of Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s first jab to boost the defense against the more contagious delta variant that’s seen driving daily caseload to as high as 20,000 by next month. Under the revised vaccine regime, Thailand will use five million Sinovac shots per month, according to Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control.
Thailand is chasing additional vaccine deals, after Astra, which was seen as the primary supplier for its national rollout, conveyed its inability to meet targets set by the government, citing the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker’s export commitments. The government is also working to procure more shots from manufacturers such as Pfizer Inc., according to Opas.
Authorities are trying to ramp up vaccinations to reduce hospitalization and death rates as the surge of new infections overwhelms the nation’s public health system. The country reported 11,784 new cases on Monday, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began, even as the country’s hotspots entered the second week of the most stringent containment measures in more than a year.
Thailand’s latest vaccine strategy is a departure from its original plan of solely relying on Astra vaccine, which is being locally produced by Siam Bioscience Ltd., to administer 10 million shots per month. With two-thirds of local Astra output slated for exports, Thailand is expected to receive only about five million doses per month, forcing officials to find ways to bolster its supplies, including discussions of limiting exports.
“The government has been working on assumptions based on the best case scenario and underestimated the situation. They didn’t have plans to reduce any risks or anticipate any uncertainties,” said Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, a lawmaker from the opposition Move Forward party. “Deaths and economic losses could have been avoided with better planning and management.”
Officials had earlier limited the use of Sinovac shots to its health-care and front-line workers, but later expanded it for regions with outbreaks or with plans to reopen for tourists. To date the country has administered 14.2 million doses, enough to cover about 10% of its population. Of the total doses, Sinovac made up 53%, followed by AstraZeneca at 44% and Sinopharm at 3%, according to Health Ministry data.
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