Thai Hospital Tycoon to Import Pfizer Shots as Covid Worsens

Thonburi Healthcare Group Pcl, one of Thailand’s largest private hospitals, is in talks with BioNTech SE to import 20 million doses of Pfizer Inc. shots to meet a rush for vaccines as the country reported the highest single-day Covid fatalities from a raging coronavirus outbreak.

Thonburi is negotiating the deal through a Thai government agency and expects to sign a deal as early as Friday, with delivery of the first shipment likely by the end of July, Chairman Boon Vanasin said. He declined to identify the agency until the deal is finalized.

The initial imports will be about 5 million doses, said Boon, 82, who studied medicine at Johns Hopkins University. BioNTech didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comments.

Thailand’s government-run inoculation drive, which provides shots free of charge unlike Thonburi’s program, has been 50% behind its target since the mass rollout began last month due to limited supplies. That’s prompted health officials to consider a temporary ban, or limit on exports of AstraZeneca Plc vaccines manufactured locally.

Thai Hospital Tycoon to Import Pfizer Shots as Covid Worsens

Thonburi may become the first Thai private importer of vaccines as other hospitals are set to order Moderna Inc. shots through the state-run Government Pharmaceutical Organization with deliveries expected only in the fourth quarter. The government expects to receive its order of 20 million doses from Pfizer in the final quarter as well, and 1.5 million more as a donation from the U.S.

Thailand is under pressure to contain the spread of infections and scale up vaccinations as the third wave of infections that began in early April has put a strain on its healthcare system and triggered lockdown-like restrictions in greater Bangkok area and other provinces with a high number of cases. The nationwide vaccination rate currently stands at about 9%, compared to the global average of 23%.

The Southeast Asian nation has seen a more than 12-fold surge in infections since early April, and reported 9,186 new cases on Thursday and 98 new fatalities during the past 24 hours, the most in a day since the pandemic began.

While Thailand has a target to inoculate 70% of its population by the end of the year, it may fall short of the needed vaccines. Deputy Health Minister Satit Pitutecha on Thursday said Astra was likely to complete its order of 61 million doses by the middle of next year instead of the end of this year as was expected.

The Thai Red Cross Society plans to import 1 million doses of Moderna vaccine through a government agency for free distribution, Secretary General Tej Bunnag told a parliament committee on Thursday.

Thonburi shares climbed 5.9% to 31.50 baht, the intraday level at close since April 2019. They are up 22% this year, outperforming the 8.5% gain in the benchmark SET index.

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