23 May 2024

The National Vaccine Committee (NVC) approved today (Wednesday) the procurement of another 120 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for next year, but withheld its approval of a draft announcement, regarding AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in Thailand for export, to ensure sufficient vaccine for Thais in the wake of rapid surge in infections.

Director of the National Vaccine Institute (NVI) Dr. Nakorn Premsri said the procurement of the additional 120 million doses is for those who still cannot access the vaccinations, those who require booster doses and for some to be held in reserve, in case of another outbreak. At the same time, the Disease Control Department (DCD) and the NVI will also try to procure up to 100 million doses as projected, as daily new infections have soared to almost 10,000 per day recently, with a concomitant increase in mortalities.

He also said that the committee wants the DCD and the NVI to meet with the vaccine maker and its local supplier to adjust the allocation of vaccine for domestic use and for export, which will require a change to the agreement between the state and local manufacturer, Siam Bioscience, which is set to produce 180 million doses Southeast Asia this year. Thailand is to receive about a third of that.

According to Government Spokesman Anucha Burapachai, the government will still go ahead with the “mix and match” approach in which an AstraZeneca shot will be administered after one or two shots of Sinovac, but the timeline remains unclear.

On Monday, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, advised against individuals’ mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines from different manufacturers, calling it a “dangerous trend” since there is very little information or research into the potential outcomes.

She said we are in a data-free, evidence-free zone here, as far as mix-and-match goes. “It will be a chaotic situation in countries if citizens start deciding when and who will be taking a second, a third and fourth dose of differing types.”

Meanwhile, more people are expressing doubts about the efficacy of China’s Sinovac vaccine and are more likely to opt for AstraZeneca, while mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna, will not be available until the fourth quarter.