GPO files defamation against two public figures over profit claim in Moderna deal

Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP

Thailand’s Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) has lodged a complaint with Phaya Thai police in Bangkok, accusing Dr. Boon Vanasin and Mr. Loy Chunpongtong of spreading false information about profit being sought in the Moderna vaccine procurement process, to discredit the organization.

Dr. Boon is the chairman of the Thonburi Healthcare Group, whereas Mr. Loy is a well-known mathematician, astronomer. The GPO acts on behalf of private hospitals in ordering the Moderna vaccine as only government agencies, with the exception of the Chulabhorn Royal Academy, can procure them.

In its complaint, the GPO accuses the two men of defaming the organization by providing false information to the public, causing the public to incorrectly believe that the organization is making huge profits from the procurement.

The GPO explained, in a statement issued today (Wednesday), that it was assigned to act as a go-between to procure alternative vaccines for the private sector, without making a profit.

It also said that it finds it necessary to resort to litigation against Dr. Boon and Mr. Loy because their false claims about the vaccine deal have damaged the organization’s reputation.

Meanwhile, Mr. Loy explained, on his YouTube “Loy Academy” channel yesterday, that he did not spread fake or false news about the GPO’s vaccine deal as alleged, but merely wanted to know how the state-owned organization came up with a price of 1,100 baht/dose of Moderna vaccine, charged to private hospitals, when the prices charged by the manufacturer are US$17-18 per dose to the US government and European Union, or 584 baht/dose charged by its distributer in Thailand, Zuellig Pharma Ltd.

Mr. Loy said the GPO is charging private hospitals 1,100 baht per dose, which is inclusive of 7% VAT and other expenses, and private hospitals are charging the public 1,650 baht/dose, including insurance coverage.

Although private hospitals are entitled to claim the 7% VAT refund from the state, he said he wondered if any private hospitals will refund members of the public who pay for the vaccine shots at the hospitals.

He asked why the GPO did not ask the government to waive the VAT from the beginning, so that it would not be a burden on the people. He also recommended that all government hospitals procure mRNA alternative vaccines for people free of charge, citing Section 47 of the Constitution, which stipulates that they are entitled to protection against communicable diseases from the state free of charge.

Mr. Loy claimed that what he had done, so far, is to protect Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha from public criticism, saying that he has done it in good faith, noting that people want the vaccine, but wonder why it is so expensive.


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