Thailand has confirmed its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines has been secured, with inoculations ready to begin as early as next month. A total of 2 million doses have been allocated to Thailand, while negotiations are currently underway to procure a further 26 million shots of the vaccine, to be distributed in the first half of 2021.
The news was confirmed last week by Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who also outlined a proposed timeline for the rollout of the new vaccine. “Efforts and negotiations with vaccine producers mean that between February and April 2021, at least two million doses of the vaccine will be delivered to Thailand,” confirmed the minister.
The vaccine will first be administered to those deemed most at risk, including frontline health workers. Although it has not yet been made clear which vaccine will be distributed in the first 2 million does, Thailand has already inked a deal with AstraZeneca for a further 26 million doses to follow the initial programme. These shots are expected to become available in the second quarter of the year.
Thailand’s Medical Sciences Department director, Supakit Sirilak recently emphasised the importance of securing high-quality vaccines from reputable developers and distributors. He also outlined the logistical issues inherent in a mass vaccination programme. “What’s important is there must be a system to ensure quality and safety,” explained Sirilak in a statement to the associated press. “We will not buy a vaccine from any substandard factory or any vaccine that is not backed by Phase 3 experiment results,” he added.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been developed alongside Oxford University and was approved by a British regulatory body at the end of 2020, clearing the way for vaccination programmes to begin worldwide in the New Year. The vaccine itself is reported to be easier to store and distribute, as it can be kept at normal fridge temperature, unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which must be kept at the sub-zero temperatures as low as -70C. For tropical countries such as Thailand, this can pose a problem for effective storage and distribution.
The vaccine is now being produced by a Thai firm according to a technology-sharing agreement. The Thai Food and Drug Administration stated on 30th December that it is ready, willing and able to begin the validation process for any vaccine.