Thailand in talks with Russian, Chinese, UK vaccine developers

Thailand in talks with Russian, Chinese, UK vaccine developers

A man wears a face mask while withdrawing money at an ATM in Bangkok early on Friday morning. (Photo: Reuters)
A man wears a face mask while withdrawing money at an ATM in Bangkok early on Friday morning. (Photo: Reuters)

Thai officials are in talks with several Chinese, Russian and UK vaccine developers to secure viable inoculations against the coronavirus as soon as they became available, according to Nakorn Premsri, director of the National Vaccine Institute.

They also expect to reach agreements with the University of Oxford and Covax, a World Health Organisation-backed initiative, by the end of October, he said,

The government aims to secure the first batch of doses within three to six months of a vaccine becoming available, Mr Nakorn said in a phone interview on Thursday.

“We need to be proactive and look for every way we can to secure the vaccine quickly,” he said.

“We have a huge risk for an outbreak because we don’t have a large number of cases," leaving the population vulnerable if infections start to spread, he said.

Thailand was the first country outside China to detect the often deadly virus, but has been largely free of community transmission, with only two known cases since the end of May.

As of Friday morning, it had logged 3,628 cases since it first detected the virus in January, but its economy has been battered by the hit from the pandemic to its exports and tourism sectors, its two key economic drivers.

Thailand is also pursuing its own vaccine research program, a move spurred by its failure to promptly get an adequate supply of shots during the 2009 flu pandemic, Mr Nakorn said.

The first phase of human trials of the locally developed inoculation is set to start as early as December.

He also said the government will provide vaccines to its citizens for free, although health authorities are still drawing up a priority list.

Front-line health workers and social service providers may be given priority. Vaccination will likely be compulsory in areas with active outbreak, Mr Nakorn said.

The government plans to increase its budget for the vaccine program to about 3 billion baht, enough to inoculate 33 million people, about 50% of the population, he said.

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