Thailand’s vaccine shopping list as COVID surges

Syringes with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine lay on a table at a pop up vaccine clinic at the Jewish Community Center on April 16, 2021 in the Staten Island borough of New York City. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)

As the number of new COVID-19 cases surges this month, the government is rushing to find more vaccines for Thais. On Friday (April 16), Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha took it upon himself to list the various vaccine brands Thailand is currently trying to procure.

Prayut declared the government had already made a move for Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s Convidecia and Sinopharm’s vaccines, India’s Covaxin, and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Now, Thailand must wait to find out whether the manufacturers will agree to provide supplies amid the huge global demand for COVID vaccines.

However, Prayut hinted that the chances of procuring Sputnik V and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are high thanks to Thailand’s strong foreign relations.

Sputnik V

Developed by Russia’s state-run Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Sputnik V in August 2020 became the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine registered for use. Today, this viral-vector vaccine has been authorised for use in over 60 states including Russia, India, Ghana and Hungary. Inoculation requires two doses and its price per dose is about US$9.75 (Bt305).

According to https://sputnikvaccine.com, Sputnik V is one of only three vaccines in the world with efficacy of over 90 per cent. A trial involving 19,866 volunteers – who received either both doses of Sputnik V or a placebo – found the vaccine’s ability to prevent symptomatic COVID-19 stood at 91.6 per cent.

However, its efficacy is still being questioned because Russia has not yet made crucial primary data available to independent drug-testing authorities.

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech is the first to be approved for emergency use by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Evidence from clinical trials shows it is 95 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. Inoculation requires two shots. Its price per dose is about $20 (Bt627).

Utilising relatively new mRNA technology, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is recommended for people aged 16 years and older but doses must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

Thailand’s sluggish vaccine rollout no match for super-contagious COVID strain

Thailand is ramping up its COVID-19 vaccination drive following an unprecedented surge in infections since April 5, with Thursday (April 15) bringing a record 24-hour high of 1,535 new cases. Official records show that only 247,850 people in Thailand had received their first jab as of April 5 – but that number more than doubled to 581,311 by April 15.

Convidecia

Developed by China’s CanSino Biologics, this vector vaccine has already been authorised for use in China, Mexico, Pakistan, Hungary and Chile.

In February 2021, data released from Phase III trials with 30,000 participants showed the vaccine was 90.98 per cent effective against severe COVID-19 and 65.7 per cent effective against moderate cases. Better still, it requires just a single dose costing about $27.15 (Bt850).

Sinopharm vaccine

Commonly known as Sinopharm, Chinese state-owned enterprise China National Biotec Group (CNBG) is developing two inactivated-virus COVID-19 vaccines. However, given Thailand’s urgent need for a vaccine, Prayut must have been referring to BBIBP-CorV.

Widely dubbed the Sinopharm vaccine, BBIBP-CorV is 79.3 per cent effective in preventing people from developing symptoms. It has already been approved for use in several countries including China, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hungary, and the United Arab Emirates. Inoculation requires two doses, each costing about $36 (Bt1,130).

Covaxin

Manufactured by Bharat Biotech, Covaxin is India’s first indigenous COVID-19 vaccine. This inactivated-virus jab demonstrated 81-per-cent interim efficacy in preventing COVID-19 after the second dose. Each dose costs just a few dollars.

Importantly, analysis by India’s National Institute of Virology indicates that Covaxin-induced antibodies can neutralise the UK variant strains and other variants. Thailand’s latest surge in infections is being driven by the super-contagious UK strain.

Covaxin will likely be shipped through government-to-government deals to Mongolia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Bahrain, Oman, Maldives and Mauritius soon.

View of a vial of India’s COVAXIN vaccine against COVID-19 at the public hospital in Villa Elisa, Paraguay, on April 14, 2021. (Photo by NORBERTO DUARTE / AFP)

What’s next?

Prayut explained that all vaccines used in Thailand would have to be registered with the Food and Drug Administration. At present, only three brands are registered with the Thai FDA – AstraZeneca, Sinovac, and Johnson and Johnson.

By Thai PBS World’s General Desk

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