Cupid’s arrow but no COVID-19 jab for Thais this Valentine’s Day

(Photo by STR / AFP)

Amid all the confusion about Thailand’s COVID-19 vaccination plans, two things are very clear: People will not start getting inoculated from Valentine’s Day no matter what top government figures said earlier, and the first vaccine to arrive will be China’s CoronaVac.

Thailand was hit by COVID-19 more than a year ago, and in the eyes of many observers, the government has been too slow in getting the population inoculated. That judgement seems reasonable given that 138 million doses have already been administered across 73 countries, including Thailand’s neighbours Cambodia and Indonesia.

Mounting pressure

Last year, the government signed a purchase order for 26 million doses with AstraZeneca in a deal that also includes knowledge transfer for local pharmaceutical firm Siam Bioscience to produce the vaccine in Thailand.

Most of last year saw few complaints against the government, since COVID-19 infections were well under control. However, when a new outbreak hit the country in December, the pressure quickly mounted.

People began pointing out that the AstraZeneca vaccine was not the only option available.

Then, last month, the government announced it would be ordering 2 million doses of China’s CoronaVac and hoped to have the vaccine registered by mid-February.

It also put in an order for an additional 35 million doses from AstraZeneca.

Thailand to start human trials of locally developed COVID-19 vaccine in March

Thailand will begin the first stage of human trials in March of a new COVID-19 vaccine, which has been developed jointly by the Faculty of Tropical Medicine of Mahidol University and the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO), Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told the media on Wednesday.

What is CoronaVac?

CoronaVac is an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Life Sciences. Phase III data shows CoronaVac has 50.65% overall efficacy following two doses. Meanwhile, clinical trials in Brazil and Turkey show the vaccine being 83.7% effective in preventing severe cases and 100% effective against hospitalisation or death from COVID-19.

CoronaVac’s reported overall efficacy is lower than other vaccines on the market, though authorities say it is relatively safe since it uses an old, tried and tested production technique.

Thai corporate giant CP Group also has an interest in CoronaVac via its pharmaceutical arm, Sino Biopharmaceutical, which spent US$515 million in December for a 15% stake in Sinovac Life Sciences’ Sinovac Biotech.

The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation has submitted documents to the Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to have CoronaVac registered in Thailand. The documents are still being reviewed, as the vaccine needs to be registered before it can be used.

So far, the AstraZeneca vaccine is the only one registered by Thai authorities to fight COVID-19.

Getting to know Sputnik V, COVID-19 vaccine developed Russia – Thai PBS World Tonight [4th February 2021]

February 5, 2021 Russia has been developing its own COVID-19 vaccine, and was a big headline news since it was out fairly quickly, compared to other vaccines last year. Though it was the first, the public had doubts about its efficiency. However, the latest publication on the medical journal, The Lancet, might help answer some of the questions.

Chinese jab wins race

Over the past few weeks, both CoronaVac and AstraZeneca have been touted as the most likely vaccine to protect the Thai population against the virus. However, the high demand for AstraZeneca vaccines in Europe means CoronaVac has a better hope of arriving in Thailand first. However, that hope was eroded last month with news that the vaccine had not yet been approved in China.

The tide shifted in CoronaVac’s favour when Beijing gave its stamp of approval early this month, and the Thai government confirmed that Sinovac will send 2 million doses to Thailand.

The first batch of 200,000 doses will arrive this month, followed by 800,000 doses next month and 1 million in April.

CoronaVac’s pending arrival relieves some of the worry over news that the European Union’s decision to suspend vaccine exports has delayed AstraZeneca’s urgent shipment of 150,000 doses to Thailand.

The government’s discussions with China appear to be going more smoothly. On Monday, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha received courtesy call from the Chinese Embassy. Chargé d’Affaires Yang Xin wished the PM a happy Chinese New Year and assured him that Sinovac will send its vaccine to Thailand as soon as possible.

CoronaVac in overseas markets

Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey and Chile have approved CoronaVac for emergency use. In ASEAN, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines have also placed orders for the Chinese vaccine.

By Thai PBS World’s General Desk

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