Credit: Oxford University

Thailand places hopes on Covid-19 vaccines, seeking to secure 35 million more doses to cover 50% of its population this year

The country is gearing towards securing the supplies via both procurements and in-house production with the help from the world’s renowned vaccine developers, Oxford University and AstraZeneca

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has revealed after the meeting of the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) he chairs today that he has instructed concerned authorities to seek more of the vaccine supplies to cover more of the citizens in need.

The CCSA earlier set to cover 50% of the population with an estimated 70 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines. It has managed to secure 26 million doses from British-Swedish AstraZeneca. The deal was signed in November last year, along with technology transfer from the company.

However, at the CCSA meeting today, the authorities in charge had brought the issue back to the table, and PM Gen Prayut said he has instructed them to seek more of the vaccines as such.

The PM, however, did not elaborate on the details.

According to the Department of Medical Sciences under the Public Health Ministry, the vaccines from AstraZeneca could be delivered from May onwards.

Thailand thus sought the first two million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from China’s Sinovac, which would deliver the vaccine lots between February and April. The first batch of 200,000 doses from Sinovac could be delivered in February, 800,000 more in March, and the rest of one million doses would be delivered in April, according to Dr. Supakij Sirilak, the department’s director-general.

Dr. Supakij said Thailand would seek more of the vaccines, around 30%, from the WHO initiated COVAX Facility, which the World Health Organisation has initiated. As explained by the WHO, the Facility is an umbrella mechanism, through which demand and resources are pooled to support procurement of, and equitable access to, COVID-19 vaccines.

And the rest would be through negotiations with other companies such as Pfizer or Moderna of the US or even the same AstraZeneca for further lots.

The company, he added, has been in the process of transferring technology of Covid-19 vaccine development and production to Thailand via the Siam Bioscience company.

Dr. Supakij said during the press briefing yesterday that Thailand would not purchase sub-standard vaccines or vaccines, which have not yet passed the third phase of a clinical trial, and they must get approval and registration from the department and the Food and Drug Administration.

PM Prayut also similarly assured the public that the vaccines subject for use here must be safe and certified first.

A committee has particularly been set up to manage the vaccine stockpiles to ensure that they will be distributed following priorities and needs.

Source: CCSA

Worldwide development of Covid-19 vaccines

Dr. Nakhon Premsri, Director of the National Vaccine Institute (NVI) said worldwide, 9 manufacturers, which have developed Covid-19 vaccines via various methods and technology including uses of mRNA or synthetic genes that can trigger an immune response without using pathogens, have been approved for the emergency use authorization (EUA).

He stressed that Thailand would accept vaccines, which have passed the third phase of a clinical trial and got medical approval. So far, there are only three companies which have got such approval in some countries; be they Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca.

The rest have passed only the second phase of a clinical trial and been approved only for the EUA. China’s or Russia’s have been in the second phase of a clinical trial and have no results of the third phase but they have been prematurely registered already, Dr. Nakhon noted.

Pfizer and Moderna, meanwhile, have also still been collecting more data regarding the third phase of their clinical trials for their vaccines, but they too have got registered in some countries.

AstraZeneca, on the other hand, has already been registered for the EUA in England on December 30.

Dr. Nakhon said several countries have to procure the vaccines ahead of the confirmation of the final test results because the sooner they procure, the less chance they secure the vaccines for their citizens. Thailand is no exception, as explained earlier by Public Health Minister Autin Charnvirakul.

Worldwide, more than five million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been distributed in 10 countries, and it is not yet certain that the manufacturers can produce up to 100 million doses to serve the needs early this year, Dr. Nakhon noted.

The WHO via its initiated mechanism, COVAX, meanwhile, sets to deliver two billion vaccine doses for global needs by the end of 2021.

“Our policy is we aim to seek the vaccines to cover at least half of our population within this year, and we have been seeking them through various means. AstraZeneca’s is among the first batches, not the only means that we have, “said Dr. Nakhon.

PM Prayut at the signing ceremony in November.
Credit: ThaiGov

In-house production

Siam Bioscience’s representative, Dr. Songpol Deejongkij said the company has been transferring technology to develop Covid-19 vaccines to Thailand since last October and assisting it in preparing related infrastructure and manufacturing. The country’s infrastructure would have a capacity to produce up to 200 million doses of the company’s vaccine a year, or 15-20 million doses a month.

There will be at least five rounds of manufacturing testing, which would take around 120 days for each round. The first round was completed in mid-last month, and now it’s in the process of the second round.

After finishing all five rounds, the company would then submit proposals to ask for certification and registration from concerned agencies, Dr. Songpol revealed.

Credit: WHO