Govt calls in private sector to import 25m jabs as outbreak worsens
Facing a Delta-driven outbreak of more than 20,000 cases daily, and barely 6 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, Thailand is finally handing its private sector the means to import vaccines directly.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, as head of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), on August 1 assigned private companies and a working group to import 20-25 million doses of alternative vaccines by the third quarter this year for rapid inoculation.
The vaccines, including Sputnik V and Johnson & Johnson (J&J), will be imported directly without the involvement of government agencies.
Up till now, almost all of Thailand’s vaccine has been procured by Public Health Ministry agencies, namely the Department of Disease Control, National Vaccine Institute and the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO).
Meanwhile, vaccine shortages have led to growing criticism of the Thai government’s decision to rely almost exclusively on locally made AstraZeneca doses and Chinese Sinovac vaccine.
A senior executive of a private hospital said on Thursday that the order for private-sector imports would mean more people could be vaccinated.
Removing the government middleman would also cut red tape and speed up importation of Thailand-registered vaccines like J&J and Pfizer-BioNTech, said the executive. Meanwhile, registration of Sputnik V, which is imported by Kingen Biotech Co Ltd, is expected soon.
The GPO has also ordered 3.9 million doses of Moderna vaccine. However, 9.23 million doses of Moderna have been pre-booked at private hospitals already, meaning more than 50 per cent of customers will not get the jab and instead have to be refunded.