24 May 2024

Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute (NVI) Director Nakorn Premsri offered an apology to the public on Wednesday for the slow and insufficient national COVID-19 vaccine rollout, saying mutations of the virus were unforeseen, while promising that the country will join the COVAX program to receive donated vaccines next year.

“I apologise to the people that the National Vaccine Institute has not managed to procure a sufficient amount of vaccines for the unforeseen situation, although we have tried our best. The mutations (of the virus) were something that could not be predicted, which have caused a more rapid spread than last year. The vaccine procurement effort did not match the situation,” Dr. Nakorn said.

Thailand is in the process of joining the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access program, or COVAX, which is a worldwide initiative aimed at providing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines directed by Gavi, or the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The NVI will soon send formal communications to Gavi, to initiate negotiations on vaccines to be received, said Dr. Nakorn.

92 low-to-medium-income countries have joined the COVAX program, under which they receive donated WHO-approved vaccines from wealthier countries, like the US, the UK, the EU, China and Japan.

Although Thailand is not yet part of the program, about 1.5 million doses of Pfizer vaccine will be donated to the country by the US government in the coming days.

Thailand has only received 14.5 million doses of China’s Sinovac, three million doses of Sinopharm, also from China, and about 9.2 million doses of the UK’s Oxford-AstraZeneca, mostly locally produced by Siam Bioscience, as of July 16th. 3.5 million people or only about 5% of the entire population have been fully vaccinated to date.