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Minister denies rabies vaccine graft amid probe of substandard batch

Mar 25. 2018
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By The Nation

AGRICULTURE Minister Grisada Boonrach yesterday denied reports that Livestock Department director-general Apai Suttisunk would be transferred. This followed the establishment of a fact-finding committee into reports that some anti-rabies vaccines are substandard.

The committee, chaired by the ministry’s deputy permanent secretary Surapong Jiasakul, will also investigate reports of a possible conflict of interest in the procurement of anti-rabies vaccines in Apai’s department, said Krissada.

“The panel set up last Friday will also investigate reports that the wife of a former senior official was a supplier of anti-rabies vaccines for many years,” the minister said.

He was referring to widespread rumours that Apai had recently met him and asked for a transfer pending the committee’s investigation, which has been ordered to finish within a month.

The Livestock Department has been criticised for inefficiency and for using substandard anti-rabies vaccines, resulting in the current outbreak of rabies that has claimed six lives in recent weeks and seen 25 provinces designated as rabies zones.

The panel will also examine the efficiency of the Agriculture Ministry, Public Health Ministry and local authorities in fighting the outbreak and investigate whether anybody received illegitimate gains from the project.

Panel members will meet tomorrow to decide what information they want to access and which individuals they want to talk to.

Meanwhile, Apai dismissed reports that he had asked for a transfer as “rumours”, saying that any transfer would be his superiors’ decision.

“What I am facing at present is an investigation into the efficiencies of the measures to do with rabies and the vaccines,” he said.

He said the panel’s task was “to make inquiries in order to answer the public’s questions and to create transparency”.

Apai insisted that procurements of the vaccine – which were made for many years from a single firm run by a family member of a ministry official – were conducted by the book.


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